WASHINGTON -- Gazette-Mail Regional Spelling Bee champ Elizabeth Koh correctly spelled "moratorium" in the first oral round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.The Beckley 13-year-old coolly stepped up to the microphone, asked for the word's definition and language of origin, and recited the letters.West Virginia's other spellers also fared well.Thomas Aldridge, a home-schooled eighth grader from Bridgeport, correctly spelled "wearisome" and Shivali Halabe, a sixth grader from Suncrest Middle School in Morgantown, spelled "aberrant" correctly.
Olivia Archer, a seventh-grader from St. Vincent de Paul Parish School in Wheeling, misspelled her round two word, "hebetate," however.Spellers were not eliminated for misspelling their words in round two. Correct spellings were worth three points toward their preliminary score, however.The bee's third round, the last of the preliminary rounds, will work the same way. That round begins at 1:15 p.m. today and will be streamed live on ESPN3.com.Spellers completed the bee's first round - a computerized spelling test - on Tuesday.Judges will combine spellers' scores from the first three preliminary rounds once round three is completed to determine which contestants advance to the bee's semifinal rounds on Thursday.Following round two, ESPN reporter Samantha Steele took to the stage to get her own turn at the microphone. Her word was "slobberhannes.""I don't speak German," Steele told bee pronouncer Jacques Bailly.She then asked Bailly for an example sentence."Samantha wished she could play slobberhannes as well as her friends, but contented herself with being much prettier," Bailly read.Steele eventually called for backup...from six-year-old Virginia speller Lori Anne Madison.Madison is the youngest speller ever to compete in the national bee. She walked from her seat to stand beside Steele.
"I think it's a joke," she told the reporter.Judges eventually rang the dreaded "bee bell" on Steele, because she took too long to spell the word.Though she couldn't offer much help to Steele, Madison made a good showing earlier in the bee.Photographers snapped away as Madison, wearing a bright pink polo shirt and green flip flop sandals, stepped to the microphone and spelled "dirigible."She high-fived a much larger contestant on the way back to her seat. Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ZackHarold.