National Spelling Bee Opens With 'Witticism'
278 participants will be whittled down to 50
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 30, 2012 8:13 AM CDT
Contestants in the National Spelling Bee take the written exam on computers in Oxon Hill, Md., Tuesday, May 29, 2012. The oral competition begins Wednesday.    (Jacquelyn Martin)
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(Newser) – The 85th National Spelling Bee is under way. Thirteen-year-old Kevin Lazenby of Opelika, Ala., stepped to the microphone this morning at a convention center outside Washington and correctly spelled "witticism." The 278 participants won local and regional spelling bees to make the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Each gets the opportunity to spell two words during today's preliminary rounds.

Their scores will be combined with scores from a 50-word computer test taken yesterday to determine the field of no more than 50 semifinalists. Three of last year's finalists are back for another try, and two spellers made the bee for the fifth straight year. Another speller to watch: 6-year-old Lori Anne Madison of Lake Ridge, Va., the youngest-ever competitor. She's not expected to win, but making it beyond the preliminaries would be another stunning development.