WASHINGTON -- A total of 14 young spellers were eliminated in the first round of the 58th annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee today, shrinking the record field of 168 local champions to 154.
The first speller eliminated, 13-year-old Teri Kellog, tripped up on the word 'moratorium,' putting an 'i' in place of the 'a.'
Wendy Mongeau, a 14-year-old 8th grade honors student from Stoughton, Mass., officially opened the two-day competition, correctly spelling 'calliope.' She was followed by 11-year-old Ivy Drenchney, a 6th grader from Chicago, who correctly spelled 'falsetto' and then Teri was confronted with 'moratorium.'
She was quickly followed by the fourth speller, 9-year-old Jonathan Hensley, Kingston, Tenn., the bee's youngest contestant, who misspelled 'oppugn' as 'apune.'
The first round, which lasted an hour and 25 minutes, saw spellers correctly get 'jaconet' and 'otitis' but stumble on 'jacanapes' and 'anise.'
The bee began after the spellers went through a practice round to make them familiar with the type of words used.
A sharp bell greeted each misspelled word, and the spellers were then escorted off the ballroom stage to a comfort room where consolation and soft drinks were waiting for them.
'This is a very experienced group of spellers,' Mary Curtin, co-director of the bee said at the start. 'No matter what happens ... each is already a champion.'
The spelling will continue through the afternoon and Thursday until only one of the 168 local champions remain.
For two days, the survivors of the 9- to 14-year-old spellers -- 67 boys and 101 girls -- will compete with each another and the dictionary in the ballroom of a downtown Washington hotel, wrestling with words from aardvark to zygomatic to determine the nation's top speller.
Bee officials sAid Tuesday the 168 contestants in this year's spelldown is a new record, an increase of 17. When the Louisivlle (Ky.) Courier Journal began the contest in 1925, there were nine spellers.
For most competitors, the national spelling bee is a new -- and perhaps intimidating -- event. But 19 spellers are second-time contestants, so the excitement, the fear and the tears will be familiar.
Four spellers -- Ashely Adams of Guymon, Okla.; Charles Lewis of Gettysburg, Pa.; Balu Natarajan of Bolingbrook, Ill.; and Tanya Zahava Solomon of Kansas City, Mo. -- are eaking their third appearance in the national finals.
Last year's second-place winner, eighth grader Amy McWhirter, 14, of St. Joseph, Mich., is back in this year's finals to try her skills again.
Last year, 606 words were needed before the eventual winner, Daniel Greenblatt, 13, of Leesburg, Va., won by correctly spelling the word luge.
Spelling bee officials said the spellers come from 46 sdates, including Alaska and the District of Columbia. Newspapers in the Virgin Islands, Guam and Mexico also also are sponsoring spellers in this year's contest.
The youngest contestant and only fourth grader is Jonathan Hensley, 9, of Kingston, Tenn.
The other spellers include two 10-year-olds,19 11-year-olds, 26 12-year olds, 65 13-year-olds and 55 14-year-olds. Nine are in fifth grade, 22 in the sixth, 36 in the seventh and 100 in the eighth.
Of the past 60 champions, 33 have been girhs and 27 have been boys. On three occasions, co-champions have been declared.
National spelling bee officials said they estimated between 8 million and 9 million participated in the 1985 bee at the local level.