On a local swim club, Lori Anne likes especially to compete with — and sometimes beat — older boys.
Asked what advice she might have for other children who want to learn to spell like a champion, Lori Anne said, “Swimming helps because when you see all the practice, all the hard work [pay off] when you go to a meet, it inspires you to do the same in spelling.”
(As she was being interviewed at a Panera Bread outlet in Woodbridge, Lori Anne apologized for pausing to eat. “I have a mouthful of delicious grilled cheese and I just can’t help it,” she said.)
Mary Brown, one of her swimming coaches, said Lori Anne is exceptionally driven but always a good sport in the pool, win or lose. One day, Lori Anne startled Brown when the coach encouraged her to play with some of her new teammates.
“No,” she told Brown. “I need to focus on my next race.”
Still, she remains a bubbly 6-year-old. During a hard swim practice one recent afternoon at the Chinn Aquatics & Fitness Center, Lori Anne leaned over to chat with a teammate as she was motoring down a lane with a kickboard.
If Lori Anne struggles with anything, her mother said, it is listening.
Debates over the necessity of vegetables and the merits of iron-enriched animal crackers (quite healthy, Lori Anne once insisted) can become intellectual duels.
“It’s like arguing in front of the Supreme Court every day,” Madison said. “You have to really have a good case about why she needs to do something.”
Madison said she and her husband, Alex Madison, a lawyer, decided to home-school their only child because administrators told them that she was bored when she was briefly enrolled at a private school in Reston.
After she won the Prince William bee in March, Lori Anne and her mother both caught pneumonia and strep throat. Some valuable study time was lost.
Round one of the national bee starts Tuesday with testing via computer. On Wednesday, rounds two and three, with all spellers onstage, will be shown live on ESPN3. The semifinals and finals are Thursday, with the final round broadcast in prime time on ESPN.
Until the bee starts, Lori Anne is taking the competition seriously but enjoying the ride. It seems like it’s always been that way.
Consider Lori Anne’s favorite word — the German sprachgefühl. The Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines it as “an intuitive sense of what is linguistically appropriate.” Lori Anne has another definition.
“It means love of language,” she explained. “By the way, which I have.”