OXON HILL, Maryland—The 85th National Spelling Bee is under way.
Thirteen-year-old Kevin Lazenby of Opelika, Ala., stepped to the microphone Wednesday morning at a convention center outside Washington and correctly spelled “witticism.”
Gokul Venkatachalam, of St. Louis, is one of 278 participants who won local and regional spelling bees to make the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Each gets the opportunity to spell two words during Wednesday’s preliminary rounds. Their scores will be combined with scores from a 50-word computer test to determine the field of no more than 50 semifinalists.
This year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee includes the youngest speller ever -- 6-year-old Lori Anne Madison of Lake Ridge, Va. Three of last year’s finalists are back for another try, and two spellers made the bee for the fifth straight year.
Venkatachalam is the only student representing St. Louis. He's one of 8 students from the state of Missouri.