WASHINGTON (AP) -- Anjay Ajodha asked for the word to be pronounced, defined and used in a sentence. Then came just the humming of a microphone. Finally, the youngest national spelling finalist in at least 25 years took his shot at "deipnosophist." The 8-year-old, who attends school in Pearland, Texas, nailed it, sighing and smiling along with the audience.
In all, 175 of 251 spellers advanced from Wednesday morning's first round of the 76th Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. They were awarded with a 25-word written test to narrow the field for Thursday's final round.
Those who didn't advance were escorted to a "comfort room," where they found juice and cookies -- and a dictionary, for a peek at how they went wrong.
One of the first to stumble was Jonathan Mangar, a sixth-grader in New York, N.Y. He rubbed his chin, wiped his forehead and took a deep breath before adding one too many vowels in "momus," which means carping critic.
Correctly spelled words included "affenpinscher," "formicivorous" and "papillote."
Some students took advantage of every clue they could seek from the pronouncer. Others heard their word, spelled it and learned their fate in 10 seconds.
Trudy McLeary, an eighth-grader who attends school in Kingston, Jamaica, startled the audience by booming her questions into the microphone. She broke her word -- "fantoccini," meaning puppets moved by strings -- into four sections as she spelled it correctly.
Jose Cabal-Ugaz looked for some extra help. As he got to center stage, the eighth-grader who attends school in Miami, crossed himself in prayer. The word he got: "Eucharist." Can't get that one wrong.
Students prepared for the finals in various ways. Some studied nightly for more than a year while others seemed content just making it this far. Somewhere in between was Jodie Singer, a sixth-grader from Washington, D.C., who drilled words with her mom whenever she could find time.
"I know people are expecting a lot," Jodie said before the contest. "I know I'm probably not going to win -- I'm not. But other people who have no clue how hard the nationals are, how hard the words are, they think I'm a really good speller. They think I'll do really well. It's a lot of pressure."
On her way to the finals she practiced a 500-word list so much that she could spell many words after hearing one syllable. The sheet went wherever she did, including on a trip to the ice rink, where her mom, Carrie, quizzed her as they put on skates.
Jodie's goal was to clear the first round.
That didn't happen; she got stuck on "demesne," which means the legal possession of land as one's own.
Last year, it took 11 rounds to declare a winner.
This year's spellers range in age from 8 to 15, although most are 13 and in eighth grade. The majority, 167, attend public school. Nineteen have at least one sibling who participated previously in a national bee.
The winner's main prize will be $12,000, and all other spellers will receive cash awards based on performance.
Contestants eliminated in round one of the 2003 Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee with correct spelling of the word misspelled. Round 1
Michael Martinez, 13, Tucumcari Middle School; Tucumcari, N.M. -- borborygmus
Brenna Cobb, 11, home school; Gallup, N.M. -- dinanderie
Kyle Trujillo, 13, Tuba City Junior High School; Tuba City, Ariz. -- Isthmian
Daniel Stewart, 13, home school; Howard, N.Y. -- eremology
Jonathan Mangar, 11, Our Lady of Perpetual Help School; New York -- momus
Mary Beth Chapman, 14, Milford Central School; Milford, N.Y. -- koinonia
Brianne Wicks, 13, Gouverneur Junior/Senior High School; Gouverneur, N.Y. -- Paracelsian
Amber Ebsch, 15, Overhills Middle School; Spring Lake, N.C. -- battement
Jonathon Dodd, 10, Boiling Springs Elementary School; Boiling Springs, N.C. -- quinquevir
David Jeffers, 14, Louisville Middle School; Louisville, Ohio -- estoppel
Patrick Bond, 14, Amanda-Clearcreek Junior High School; Amanda, Ohio -- vindaloo
Emily Schindler, 13, Celina Middle School; Celina, Ohio -- pratincolous
Chris Grinstead, 12, Central Intermediate School; Wadsworth, Ohio -- Wesak
Kristin Cummings, 14, Karaffa Middle School; Toronto, Ohio -- timbale
Michael Talanca, 14, Saints Mary and Joseph School; Newton Falls, Ohio -- chiral
Holly Burdorff, 13, Ledgemont Middle School; Thompson, Ohio -- gibus
Kelly Morckel, 14, West Branch Junior High School; Damascus, Ohio -- jicara
Angela Benton, 11, Lava Ridge Elementary School; Bend, Ore. -- bistoury
Kathryn Hocking, 12, Delcroft Elementary School; Folcroft, Pa. -- danza
Zachariah Basehore, 14, Good Hope Middle School; Mechanicsburg, Pa. -- minnesinger
Christine Kim, 13, John F. Reynolds Middle School; Lancaster, Pa. -- erythropsia
Alesha Polles, 14, Pleasant Valley Middle School; Brodheadsville, Pa. -- dolichoid
Carla Chow, 14, St. John's School; San Juan, Puerto Rico -- espagnole
Coburn Childs, 12, RIGHT School; Pawtucket, R.I. -- meniscus
Carissa James, 11, Townville Elementary School; Townville, S.C. -- Achillean
Claudia Collins, 12, Trautmann Middle School; Laredo, Texas -- aioli
Jared Inting, 14, Bowie Junior High School; Odessa, Texas -- feis
Sydney Summers, 13, John Glenn Junior High School; San Angelo, Texas -- cheliferous
Jung Mour, 11, Travis Middle School; Port Lavaca, Texas -- burelage
Sydney Matlock, 12, Washington-Jackson Math, Science, and Technology Center; Wichita Falls, Texas -- cinereal
Margaret Smeltzer, 10, Eastern Mennonite High School; Harrisonburg, Va. -- stichomythia
Benjamin Slaughter, 11, Bessie Weller Elementary School; Staunton, Va. -- chitin
Thomas Mirus, 13, Seton High School; Manassas, Va. -- tournedos
Colin Findley-Meier, 12, Conway School; Conway, Wash. -- quatorzain
Niki Rowe, 14, Wayne Middle School; Wayne, W.Va. -- chernozem
Kaylyn Christopher, 14, Central Preston Middle School; Kingwood, W.Va. -- serrulate
Christopher Vickery, 13, Romney Middle School; Romney, W.Va. -- gouache