Six-Year-Old Girl Is Youngest to Qualify for National Spelling Bee

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Molly Riley / Reuters

A spectator takes photos of contestants on stage before the start of the second phase of round three of the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Words such as “vaquero,” a word of Spanish origin meaning cowboy, typically fall off the radar of young spellers. Unless, of course, they need to spell it correctly to win a regional spelling bee.

Lori Anne Madison, a 6-year-old from Woodbridge, Va., knew that word and a host of others to top 21 spellers (all older than her, including middle-school students) to qualify for the prestigious Scripps National Spelling Bee in May.

(PHOTOS: The 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee)

The youngest—by two years—to ever qualify for the national bee, Madison won the 34th Prince William County Spelling Bee and is en route to national fame.

The homeschooled student started spelling at age 3 and asked to go to a regional spelling bee after hearing about it from friends, she told ABC News. She had fun, so she started spelling more, entering more bees (almost always against students much older than her) and reading plenty. “I work hard and love to find new interesting words in the dictionary,” she told ABC.

Madison had better get used to the spelling limelight, as she enters event in Washington, D.C., with 276 other spellers all vying for over $40,000 in cash and prizes. Held since 1925, ESPN has started broadcasting the event live, showcasing the youngsters’ sometimes weak knees and often impeccable spelling prowess.

But even National Spelling Bee students don’t came as green as Madison, who we predict will turn into a fan favorite.

MORE: Spelling Bee Pronouncer Jacques Bailly