Clad in white pants and a pink shirt, Lori Anne Madison wiped her hands and walked briskly to the microphone Wednesday at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor in Prince George’s County.
She announced her presence to the world.
“Hi,” she said.
Lori Anne is speller 269 during the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and so the first time on stage at the bee likely couldn’t have come soon enough for a bubbly 6-year-old who sometimes, she and her mother say, can’t sit still. She’s the youngest ever to compete in the bee – but it didn’t seem that way Wednesday.
She asked for the definition of the word. Then she rapidly spelled “dirigible.” She got it right and quickly took her seat.
Lori Anne can be all business when it comes to competition ... but her time in the spotlight was hardly over.
The next speller was ESPN reporter Samantha Steele (just for a bit of fun), who was asked to spell the word meaning “variation of the game of hearts in which the object is to avoid winning the first and last tricks and any trick containing the queen of clubs.”
It sounds like “shlabberhanous” for those who don’t see words in their dreams. Steele repeated the word, shook her head, and then asked for some help.
“Lori Anne, any help with this?” she said into the microphone.
Lori Anne strode to the stage and heard the word again. “I think it’s a joke,” she told Steele.
Steele bumbled halfway through the minetrap of a word until a bell rang, indicating too much time had passed.
The judges spelled “slobberhannes,” and everyone went off to lunch.
That concluded Round Two of the competition. No one is eliminated during the preliminary rounds, and just 25 of 278 spellers got their words wrong. Round Three starts in the afternoon.
Words like “oompah” and “jimberjawed” proved no match for the brainy youngsters, while “fuchsias” and “kaiserdom” proved tricky. But it will undoubtedly get tougher.
Spellers’ results are tallied with a written test that they took Tuesday, and the top 50 will move on to the semifinals Thursday. The results of the test are not made public, and bee officials are expected to announce the semifinalists around 5:30 p.m.
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