TODAY | May 31, 2012
>> hundreds of other words. on wednesday the 6-year-old from northern virginia became the youngest person to compete in the national spelling bee . nbc's kristin welker has her story. kristin , good morning.
>> reporter: good morning to you, ann . the scripps national spelling bee is the largest in the nation. and with 278 participants, the competition is fierce. but it at just 6 years of age, little lori anne madison is proving she's pretty tough, too.
>> hi, lori anne .
>> reporter: lori anne madison can barely reach the microphone, but most days she towers over her competition.
>> may i have the definition, please?
>> reporter: the 6-year-old is the youngest ever to compete in the scripps national spelling bee . during the first preliminary round on wednesday, she aced it.
>> dirigible, d-i-r-i-g-i-b-l-e.
>> reporter: lori anne earned a place on the national stage in march after beating out 21 competitors at a regional competition in her northern virginia community.
>> v.a. q- u -e-r-o, vaqeuero.
>> reporter: she started at 3 1/2 and told her secret.
>> i read a lot.
>> reporter: the second grader is homeschooled and says she's an avid reader who loves the water as much as she loves words.
>> i do swimming. i'm a good competitive swimmer. i know karate.
>> reporter: even her fellow competitors say she's in a league all her own.
>> it's surprising that there's a 6-year-old.
>> you see kids who are half my age when i was here first. it's amazing.
>> reporter: at the end of wednesday's preliminary round, the 6-year-old faced her toughest challenge yet.
>> engluvies, e-n-g-l- u -v-i-e-s.
>> that is incorrect.
>> ingluvies is i-n-g-l- u -v-i-e-s.
>> reporter: and while lori anne didn't make it to the next round, her future couldn't be brighter. she already knows what she wants to do when she grows up.
>> i like astronomy and biology. so the perfect thing for me would be astrobiology.
>> reporter: pretty incredible, ann . we had to consult webster's on that last word, though, ingluvies. webster's defines it as the crop of a bird or insect. the crop is basically the esophagus. so the semifinals and finals will continue today without little lori anne , but she still has about six more years to compete. so this probably won't be the last time we hear from her. ann ?
>> you have said that correctly. kristin welker, thank you so much. i just love how she said how it takes to take an ent molg class. she's 6.
>> i have a 6-year-old who's not getting his allowance this week. he's got to get on the ball here.
>> ingluvies is in trouble. that's not the word.
>> spell check.
>> i know.
>> i came in sixth place