It took 16 rounds and a championship round for Emily Holtti to claim victory Tuesday, Jan. 22, at the Pine River-Backus Middle School Spelling Bee. The eighth-grader sealed the win by spelling the word "guava" correctly.

Holtti was toe-to-toe with classmate Mikayla Seibert for five rounds before Seibert was eliminated.

Words like "plodding," "taut," "citizen," "rebuked" and "cliques" did not trip up the spellers. Words like "hilarious," "procession," "immune," "swindle" and "molten" eliminated some spellers, though it turns out they were competing against themselves.

They learned that slow and steady spelled success for most of the longest-lasting competitors. Several were eliminated when they stumbled at the beginning of a word and misspelled it in spite of actually knowing the correct spelling.

Those spellers immediately recognized their mistakes, but rules do not allow do-overs. So they each finished their words, spelling them correctly if not for the first trip-up. That was Domanic Sexton's fate in round 5.

"Scaffolding, 'C' ... nuts!" Sexton said, realizing immediately that he forgot to say "S" first.

In the end, the eliminated competitors gave Holtti a round of applause after she successfully spelled her final word. Holtti received a certificate to Dairy Queen for her success.

She will also move on to the Tuesday, Feb. 19, regional spelling bee featuring more than 30 students from across Region 5 at the Sourcewell facility in Staples. The winner of that spelling bee will earn a trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., May 26-31.