National Spelling Bee starts with computer test

WASHINGTON (AP) - Nearly 300 proficient spellers have gathered at a convention center outside Washington to take part in the preliminary rounds of the National Spelling Bee.

The 278 spellers range in age from 6 to 15. Six-year-old Lori Anne Madison of Lake Ridge, Va., is the youngest ever to qualify for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The field also includes three of last year's finalists.

The spellers are taking a 50-word computerized test Tuesday. Twenty-five of the words count toward their preliminary-round score. Each competitor will spell two words onstage Wednesday, with three points for each correct word.

Results will be announced Wednesday afternoon, when the field is winnowed to no more than 50 semifinalists. The semifinals and finals are Thursday.

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