Lori Anne Madison, 6, isn’t interested only in spelling. Here, she enjoys the MathAlive! exhibit at the Smithonian’s International Gallery. (Evy Mages/For The Washington Post)

Lori Anne Madison is only 6 years old, but already she is one of the best spellers in the country.

So what does she do to get ready for spelling bees? She swims!

Lori Anne is the youngest known qualifier in the history of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which takes place every year near Washington. Lori is facing 277 other contestants from all over the country and around the world in the event, the biggest spelling competition in the country, which continues through Thursday.

Lori Anne won her regional bee in March in Prince William County in Northern Virginia. That’s why she gets to compete in the national bee. She won by spelling the word “vaquero” correctly. (It’s another word for cowboy and is used by some people in parts of Texas.)

While many people were surprised that a child so young could win, Lori Anne wasn’t. She can spell all 1,500 words in the county’s spelling bee study guide.

Spelling bee contestant Lori Anne Madison is a competitive swimmer who practices at the Chinn Aquatic and Fitness Center in Woodbridge. (Evy Mages/For The Washington Post)

Lori Anne said that while she loves words and spelling, she also just enjoys being 6.

“I’m actually very active,” she said. “I play a lot. You don’t have to drill yourself 100 times a day.”

Lori Anne is home-schooled and taught by her mom, Sorina, so she doesn’t have a typical first-grader’s day. She loves to play Angry Birds on her mom’s Kindle, and her favorite food is grilled cheese. “Big time,” she said.

But how can swimming help with spelling? Lori Anne explains:

“Swimming helps because when you see all the practice, all the hard work when you go to a meet, it inspires you to do the same in spelling,” she said.

Lori Anne’s favorite word is “sprachgefuhl” — which gives you an idea of how smart she is. It’s a German word, Lori Anne explains, that means “love of language.”

“By the way, which I have,” she said.

Lori Anne said last week that she was looking forward to the spelling bee.

“I’m very excited, I can’t wait to meet kids who love spelling and who also love words,” she said.

Anything else?

“And have fun.”

— Jeremy Borden