The 284 kids competing in this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee got their first opportunity to approach the microphone on Wednesday - and to hear the dreaded bell that signals an incorrect spelling.
At the end of Wednesday's onstage rounds, the field will be cut to no more than 50 spellers for Thursday's finals.
So far, the fan favorite is the youngest competitor in the bee - 6-year-old Akash Vukoti from San Angelo, Texas.
Six-year-old Akash Vukoti, of San Angelo, Texas, the youngest contestant in the 2016 National Spelling Bee, adjusts a microphone that towers above him to compete in the preliminaries of the Bee on Wednesday
Vukoti charmed the audience on Wednesday, when he stepped up to the microphone and had to ask for help lowering it to his height.
The first word he was given was 'inviscate,' which means to encase in a sticky substance.
After asking the judges to use the word in a sentence, to supply the part of speech and to repeat the word, he finally got it right and the crowd erupted in applause.
Vukoti then ran off stage to high-five a fellow competitor.
Last year, only four spellers got words wrong during the first onstage round. The words used during that round came from a list that spellers were able to study for months while preparing for their regional bees.
This year's opening-round words still came from a list, but spellers only got it about 50 days in advance. As a result, the bell rang for 33 spellers. Among the words that were misspelled: chanoyu, scarlatina, tilleul, preterition, quadrumanous and octateuch.
'This year, we upped the challenge,' said Paige Kimble, the bee's executive director.
The organizers are upping the ante on the spellers because the past two years have ended in ties