She still remembers the word that spelled her demise last year.


Last year, Maddi Stillabower left the l off of healthy, earning her a third place spot in the Johnson County Spelling Bee.

She vowed to study more and come back and win.

And that she did.

On Tuesday, the fifth-grader at Custer Baker Intermediate School out-spelled 19 other county spelling bee participants for spelling glory.

Participants were third-, fourth- and fifth-graders who won spelling bees at their schools. The spelling bee was co-sponsored by the Daily Journal and the Franklin Community Teachers Association.

Brayden Holman, a fifth-grader at Isom Elementary School, misspelled “octave,” giving Stillabower an opening to spell “octave” correctly and then win by spelling “paragraph.”

Holman and Stillabower battled it out as the final two contestants for 11 rounds before Holman’s stumble allowed Stillabower a window to win.

Stillablower blew through words “adventure,” “jacket” and “appreciate,” for 14 rounds before she and Holman became the final two.

When she received a word, she always traced the spelling of the word on her hand to help her recall how to spell it.

“It is harder for me to hear things and learn them. It helps me to write them down,” she said.

Her interest in spelling started in third-grade when she joined the school’s spell bowl team.

The club was her first extracurricular activity, and she likes how English rules make spelling a puzzle, such as the rule “I before E, except after C,” she said.

“It kind of feels like a puzzle to me,” she said.

She has won her school spelling bee the last two years and placed third in the Johnson County Spelling Bee last year.

As a third-grader, she placed third at her school’s spelling bee, she said.

She remembers being disappointed in her placement in the county bee last year and vowed to study more.

When she got the practice booklet a few weeks ago, she studied every night for at least 10 minutes.

She started by crossing out the easy words she knew and then had her mom quiz her on the harder words she needed to learn. Her strategy paid off.

“Last year I didn’t study that much,” she said. “It feels awesome, I have never actually won anything.”

Author photo
Magen Kritsch is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2770.