Seven young Minnesotans were among hundreds in the Washington, D.C., area for Tuesday’s kickoff of the 91st National Spelling Bee.

The six alpha females (all eighth-graders) and one alpha male (a seventh-grader) repping Minnesota were: Laura Breed, Black Hawk Middle School in Eagan; Ainsley Boucher, Crookston School District; Chloe Holoman, Royalton Middle School; Ava Becken, Northfield Middle School; Briana Joseph, Fairmont Junior High School; Sarah Lahti, King of Kings Lutheran Middle School in Roseville; and Peter Clementson, Yinghua Academy charter school in Minneapolis. Joseph and Boucher were in the competition last year.

Breed, Holoman and Joseph fell by the wayside with their first words, while the other four survived their initial challenge and move on to Wednesday’s competition.

The 500-plus spellers started Tuesday with preliminaries consisting of a multiple-choice test with spelling words and vocabulary questions. Wednesday’s winnowing includes two rounds of onstage spelling challenges. ESPN3 has live coverage on both days.

Competitors who get past those rounds advance to Thursday’s finals, which are telecast live during the day on ESPN2 and that evening on ESPN.

The champion receives more than $40,000 in prize money, an engraved trophy, a complete reference library and a pizza party for the winner’s school.

Also, the champion receives trips to New York to appear on syndicated television’s “Live with Kelly and Ryan” and to Hollywood for an appearance on ABC-TV’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

More than 11 million students participated months ago in classroom and school bees before advancing to local bees that were coordinated by news media outlets, community organizations and universities.

The National Spelling Bee started in 1925 with nine contestants. Minnesota has had one national champion, Sean Conley, of Shakopee, in 2001.

Last year’s champion was 12-year-old Ananya Vinay. The sixth-grader from Fresno, Calif., won by spelling “marocain,” a French word for dress fabric made of ribbed crêpe.