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Royalton 8th-grader wins Lakes Spelling Bee, headed to Washington DC

Royalton eight-grade speller Chloe Holoman (right) embraces her mother after spelling "einkorn" to win the 2018 Lakes Spelling Bee in Staples. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch1 / 3
Nicholas Backstrom, an eighth-grader from Forestview Middle School, tries his hand at spelling "segue" at the Lakes Spelling Bee. Out of 29 contestants representing the best spellers of Region Five, Backstrom finished third. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch2 / 3
Esme Pool, an eight-grade speller from Aitkin Secondary School, smiles during the high-stakes Round 9 of the Lakes Spelling Bee hosted at the National Powers Alliance building in Staples. Pool went on to take second place at the competition. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch3 / 3


Those three words—featuring nuanced pronunciations and difficult, non-English roots—Royalton eighth-grader Chloe Holoman had to spell correctly to pass the final rounds and win the Lakes Spelling Bee at the National Joint Powers Alliance center in Staples.

However, none of them ranked as the toughest test Holoman faced to win the contest and earn herself a place at the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee—running May 27 through June 1 in Washington, D.C. Instead, it was a word many readers may be much more familiar with:

"Persistence," Chloe said after the spelling bee was over. "I couldn't remember if its 'T-A' or 'T-E.'"

There's a certain irony to that. Adversity, struggle—these are often the things people persist against in the first place, yet Chloe glided through the increasingly difficult gauntlet of words with barely a trace of effort. "Madeleine," "rendezvous" and "einkorn" would give many spellers pause, even the most adept, but Holoman rattled them off with ease, as if she was merely reading from a page before her mind's eye.

The combination of poise and an eerily sharp memory bodes well for the young speller's future, said Cathy Riewer (pronounced "Reever," thanks to the german "W"), the head judge of the event and an observer of more than two decades of spelling competitions.

"She didn't hesitate. She will represent our region well," Riewer said. "When she heard the word, she had an idea of the origin, the roots. Sometimes words have interesting combinations of letters and she didn't have to decipher them, she just went through it."

Chloe was one of 29 students, grades fifth through eighth, to take part in the Lakes Spelling Bee, showcasing the best of the best from schools in Region Five—or Todd, Morrison, Crow Wing, Cass and Wadena counties. Esme Pool, an eighth-grader from Aitkin Secondary School, was the runner-up. Nicholas Backstrom, an eighth-grader from Forestview Middle School, took second runner-up.

Most of the contestants hung on until Round 5, when words like "spinet," "arachnid" and "wampum" wiped out 10 of the remaining 15 spellers. Slowly but surely, the field narrowed to three, then two—until Pool forgot the "E" at the end of "repertoire" in Round 9 and all Chloe needed to win was to correctly spell one word.

How do you spell a trip to Washington, D.C.? Apparently, E-I-N-K-O-R-N.

Chloe's mother, Christina Holoman, said it's a knack for mentally processing words that runs in the family. While Chloe's interests fall more in line with the arts, playing piano and running cross country, keying in on the construction of words comes naturally—even if she may not enjoy spelling quite as much as some of her peers, Christina Holoman added

"It's kind of the same way for me, because if I see a word or become familiar with it, I can usually automatically spell it," said Christina Holoman. Still, studying is important in competition, as she continually reminded her daughter, to little avail, leading up to the Lakes Spelling Bee. "You still have to study and you still have to learn and get familiar with the words. Some of those words you don't come across in everyday communication."

It would seem her mother's advice is starting to sink in, just in time for the trip to Washington, D.C., and the national competition waiting there.

"I'm sort of excited, but I feel like I'm going to have to practice a lot more," Chloe said, adding there isn't a particular root language or lexicon of words she feels she needs to focus on. "I need to practice all of them."

Gabriel Lagarde

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