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.

He didn't.

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