WASHINGTON - When her first word was presented, Priyanka Saloni Jain was ready.
Priyanka, an 11-year-old seventh grader at Ottawa Hills Junior High School, thought she recognized her word - “flysch'' - in Round One of the 74th Annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee.
But she asked for a definition just to make sure.
“Flysch,'' the announcer told her yesterday, is a sandstone deposit in the mountains especially common in the Alps.
Looking calm and self-assured as her ponytail dangled behind her, Priyanka spelled her word carefully but authoritatively and then returned to her seat.
“I was really nervous,'' she said as she stood with her brother, parents, and grandparents after group one finished. “I thought they would give me a really hard word and I wouldn't know it. [But] I did know my word, so I think it went really well.''
Twenty-nine students in Priyanka's group were not so lucky. Their errors precipitated the chime of a bell signaling their ouster from the bee. A sympathetic audience clapped as they were shepherded off the stage. Priyanka's group began with 123 students at 4 p.m. Less than two hours later, 94 remained.
Group two began their Round One competition at 7 p.m.
Priyanka joined 247 other children from every state as well as Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Jamaica who traveled to Washington to compete in the bee.
To win The Blade 2001 Northwest Ohio Spelling Bee in March, Priyanka correctly spelled “hemochromatosis,'' a disease associated with cirrhosis of the liver.
Priyanka arrived in Washington, D.C., on Sunday. Her family went sightseeing while she squeezed in last-minute studying.
She found Round One “a little easier'' than she expected but said the words will get more difficult in Round Two today. Round One words were from a booklet the spellers had studied, but the only complete source for Round Two words is Webster's Third New International Dictionary, which contains more than 460,000 entries. The championship rounds will take place tomorrow.