Eighth-grader wins Pine River-Backus spelling bee

Nesika Belleville will compete in Regional Spelling Bee on March 23 in Staples

PR-B spelling bee group
Pine River-Backus Middle School spelling bee contestants Feb. 17, 2022, in the high school gym included, from left: Elizabeth Dinsmore (eighth grade), Andrew Wolkenhauer (sixth grade), champion Nesika Belleville (eighth grade), Madilyn Turner (seventh grade), Rilian Goble (eighth grade), Adam Roubal (fifth grade), Bethany Schultz (seventh grade), Jackson Kelley (fifth grade), Logan Swiggart (sixth grade), Emily Blankenship (fifth grade), Avery Goble (sixth grade) and Roman Leger (seventh grade).
Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal

PINE RIVER — From “mess” to “granules,” Pine River-Backus eighth-grader Nesika Belleville never misspelled a word to win the middle school spelling bee Thursday, Feb. 17, in the high school gym.

Classmates and family members watched as 12 students in grades 5-8 competed to represent the school district at the Regional Spelling Bee on March 23, hosted by Sourcewell in Staples.

PR-B spelling bee winner Nesika Belleville headshot.JPG
Nesika Belleville, Pine River-Backus Middle School Spelling Bee champion Feb. 17, 2022
Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal

Taking a sweeping bow, Belleville claimed the title with a smile after correctly spelling “granules” and being proclaimed champion.

Four students battled back and forth from round 11, after three students fell in round 10.

In round 14, fifth-grade alternate Adam Roubal misspelled “expanse,” sixth-grader Avery Goble misspelled “preened,” and fifth-grader Emily Blankenship misspelled “emitting.”


Belleville correctly spelled “wattles,” before claiming the title with the right spelling of her final word. Words became progressively more difficult after her first-round word, “mess.”

I thought I could do it.
Nesika Belleville

When asked if she thought she could win the spelling bee, Belleville said: “I wasn’t sure because I’ve never been in a spelling bee. I wasn’t nervous in the first place.”

She gained confidence as other students dropped out, though admitted to being “a teensy bit nervous because the words got harder.”

“I thought I could do it,” Belleville said.

To prepare for the school bee, Belleville looked up words on the internet and had her mom read them so she could spell them. She’ll do the same to prepare for the regional bee.

Twelve middle school students compete with eighth-grader Nesika Belleville taking the top title.

Other PR-B contestants Feb. 17 were:

  • Fifth grade: Blankenship, Jackson Kelley and Roubal, the alternate who stood in for Jayda Philipson.
  • Sixth grade: Andrew Wolkenhauer, Logan Swiggart and Goble. Alternate was Dean Wynn.
  • Seventh grade: Roman Leger, Madilyn Turner and Bethany Schultz. Alternate was Blake Hoplin.
  • Eighth grade: Rilian Goble, Elizabeth Dinsmore and Belleville. There was no alternate.

Pronouncer was teacher Kate Davis. Judges were elementary school Principal Rick Aulie, high school Principal Chris Halverson, and Superintendent Jonathan Clark.
“That’s the farthest I’ve had to go in nine years,” Aulie told the participants, referring to the number of spelling bee rounds.

He congratulated the students for doing an outstanding job.


Nancy Vogt, editor, may be reached at 218-855-5877 or Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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