Lori Anne Madison is blonde and adorable and talks at 100mph. In the last few weeks, she has won major awards in both swimming and math, but one accomplishment above all has made her an overnight national celebrity: This week, the precocious girl from Lake Ridge, Va., will be onstage with youngsters more than twice her age and twice her size as one of 278 spellers who have qualified for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. She's the youngest person ever to qualify in the national bee's 87-year-old history.
Lori Anne hit all her milestones early, walking and talking well before others in her playgroup. She was reading before she was 2. She swims four times a week, keeping pace with 10-year-old boys. No one is expecting her to win the national bee this year. Just being there is a unique accomplishment, and making it beyond the preliminaries today and tomorrow would be another stunning development. The veteran spellers, some as old as 15, have honed sophisticated study methods, spending hours daily over many months in their attempts to master as much of the unabridged dictionary as possible. Lori Anne? She likes to study while jumping on her trampoline, with her mother calling out words. (Read more Lori Anne Madison stories.)