Another Hoplin wins Pine River-Backus Spelling Bee after 12 rounds

Blake Hoplin's brother, Andrew, won the competition in 2015

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Blake Hoplin, Pine River-Backus eighth-grader, won the Tuesday, March 14, 2023, school spelling bee with the word "configuration." His two final competitors, Leigham Markley and Lily Moore, are in the background.
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

PINE RIVER — After 12 rounds of stimulating, loquacious, verbal brawling, eigth-grader Blake Hoplin repeated family history and took home the win at the Pine River-Backus Spelling Bee on Tuesday, March 14.

The competition started simply enough with easy words like "doll," "hey," "look" and similar with difficulty quickly spiking. Three rounds passed before the first elimination when a student misspelled the word "minute."

Possibly shaken by the first elimination, the student to take the podium immediately after stumbled on the word "damaged" and was, likewise, eliminated.

Round 4 came and went without any errors, though the word "inkling" gave one contestant pause. He and his fellow spellers let out audible sighs of relief when pronouncer Kate Davis declared his spelling was correct.

In the same round, "joggled" caused some stress, and candidates began to stumble over double letters. One candidate was eliminated with the word "beginning," another with "whizzed." A third was eliminated with the word "floral."


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Though he did not take home the W, Rafael Angueve Garcia, of Pine River-Backus' fifth grade class, lasted until the penultimate round of the Tuesday, March 14, 2023, Pine River-Backus School spelling bee. Garcia was easily the most animated contestant, seen here relieved at correctly spelling "poppet."
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

Round six eliminated one more speller with the word "decide," but this was the last elimination for four rounds.

As the words became more complicated and less common in round 8, spellers got serious, slowed down and used their resources to get their words right, writing them down, asking for definitions, sentences and repeats.

Round 10 knocked two more out of the competition with "doorjamb" and "feisty." Round 11 eliminated two more with "unacknowledged" and "defunct."

Round 12 was a lightning round with only five spellers remaining: sixth grader Jackson Kelley, fifth grader Rafael Angueve Garcia, Hoplin, seventh grader Leigham Markley and eighth grader Lily Moore.

An alternate ended up winning the Pine River-Backus spelling bee Thursday, Feb. 19. Before the start of the contest, contestants from fifth and seventh grades stepped out of the race, followed by two fifth-grade alternates, leaving sixth-grade al...

Kelley and Garcia both misspelled their words; however, they were not eliminated until Hoplin correctly spelled his next word. Similarly, Markley and Moore misspelled their words and all Hoplin had to do at the beginning of round 13 was spell his word and they would be eliminated.

He did not stumble, spelling "configuration."

Hoplin will advance to the regional bee March 22 at Sourcewell in Staples. He also wins a Dairy Queen gift card.

He continues a tradition of spelling excellence, as his brother, Andrew, won the Pine River-Backus bee in 2015 while serving as a sixth grade alternate. Andrew Hoplin's final word in the 13th round was "berserk."


Top spellers in grades five through seven worked hard to earn their spots in the competition.

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Contestants at the March 14, 2023 Pine River-Backus spelling bee included: back row, left to right; Rafael Angueve Garcia, Avery Goble, Blayke Nelson, Jackson Kelley, Bethany Schultz and Lily Moore. Front row, left to right: Gunner Hilmanowski, Blaidyn Fuhrer, Leigham Markley, Dean Wynn, Blake Hoplin, Alissa Hoplin, Avery Hesse and Beth Hoefs. Not pictured is Emily Blankenship.
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

Competitors included: Blaidyn Fuhrer, Rafael Angueve Garcia, Beth Hoefs, Gunner Hilmanowski, Alissa Hoplin, Jackson Kelley, Emily Blankenship, Avery Hesse, Leigham Markley, Avery Goble, Dean Wynn, Lily Moore, Blake Hoplin, Bethany Schultz and Blayke Nelson.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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