The youngest speller in National Spelling Bee history said Thursday that she knew the word she misspelled during the competition, but she was too tired, bored and stressed out to concentrate when she stepped to the microphone.
Six-year-old Lori Anne Madison of Lake Ridge, Va., fell four points short of making the semifinals at the 85th Scripps National Spelling Bee. If she had spelled "ingluvies" correctly during Wednesday's preliminary rounds — she began the word with an "e" — and gotten one more word correct on a computer test, she would have achieved a qualifying score.
"I was really disappointed that I misspelled the word. I knew the word," Lori Anne said Thursday. "It was just too bad that I misspelled the word."
Admittedly overwhelmed by the media attention, the home-schooled prodigy held court with reporters for 25 minutes Thursday morning. Although she wasn't always forthcoming with her answers, making clear she'd rather be outside playing with her friends. Her blue eyes lit up when talking about her experience at a barbecue on Monday.
"I blew some absolutely huge bubbles, like this big!" she said, holding her hands a foot apart and reminding everyone of her age.
Waiting for her turn to spell wasn't so much fun. She hadn't gotten enough sleep and came close to nodding off, and the hour-and-a-half wait "seemed like two millennia," she said.
"I was just stressed. It was a really, really long wait," Lori Anne said. "Overall, it was just boring. Really boring! Really boring!"
She did enjoy interacting with the other spellers - many of whom are more than twice her age and twice her size - and she gets a thrill out of hearing a word she knows and spelling it correctly. She pledged to return next year.
"I just love spelling, so I'm really excited to go to next year's bee - if I go, which is probably going to be a yes," she said.
The news conference was at times awkward, with Lori Anne squirming in her chair when asked to talk about her hobbies and the interesting people she's met this week. She fielded a question from a Finnish reporter about how to improve the popular online game Angry Birds, which was developed in Finland.
"If anything, they should add some more birds," Lori Anne said.
She also subjected spelling bee director Paige Kimball, who won the bee in 1981 by spelling "sarcophagus," to some good-natured ribbing.
"When you won, the words were much easier," Lori Anne said. "Someone won on 'therapy.' I mean, come on!"