BY JEFF GILL
GAINESVILLE — Fifth time was the charm for Ryan Griffith.
The Gainesville Middle School eighth-grader, who has competed in the city system spelling bee each year since he was in the fourth grade, finally took home the first-place trophy Tuesday morning.
"I feel excited to finally win," said Griffith, 14, crowned after spelling "pentathlon" correctly.
Ryan Griffith, son of Jason and Michele Griffith, now advances to the district competition set for 10 a.m. Feb. 23 at Collins Hill High School in Suwanee.
If he cannot compete, for whatever reason, second-place winner Patrick Kelley, an eighth-grader at Gainesville Middle School, will take his place.
Patrick Kelley, son of Charles and Cheryl Kelley, tripped on "dichotomy," which Griffith spelled correctly before nailing "pentathlon."
Seventeen students in fourth through eighth grades participated in the bee, with three unable to attend because of sickness, said Janice Bowen, a Gainesville Middle teacher who helps coordinate the event.
The competition went four rounds before the finalist rounds between Kelley and Griffith.
In an interview after the event, Griffith, a student in GMS’ Classical Studies Academy, didn’t boast of any special knack for spelling well.
"I try to be a good student," he said, with his mother standing next to him.
She had more to say on the subject. His success with words "started early, learning phonics and spelling, and he was reading when he was 4," she said. "... It all starts with a good elementary school base."
Griffith used his mom’s cell phone to call his father, sick at home with the flu, and share the news of his bee victory.
Kelley, 14, a student in the Humanities Academy, said he was happy to be at the event.
He said he was glad he "didn’t have to worry about the full responsibility of representing our school at the district level."
Griffith took home the spelling bee words to help him prepare for the district competition.
"I’ll study all these words and have my mom quiz me," he said.