Five Minnesotans were in the Washington, D.C., area Wednesday competing to be the nation's next spelling bee champion, and two remain in the hunt.

The preliminary round of the 71st Scripps National Spelling Bee started Wednesday with 285 spellers at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., with the top 49 spellers making it to the semifinals on Thursday morning before a champ is crowned Thursday night. The semis will be telecast live on ESPN2, with the finals live on ESPN.

Among the top 49 advancing were Minnesotans Christine Farnberg and Maxwell Meyer. Farnberg, 13, an eighth-grader at Holy Spirit School in Rochester, made it to the national bee in 2013, bowing out in the prelims. Meyer, 13, is a seventh-grader at Minnetonka Middle School East.

The others who represented Minnesota were Cade Klimek, 14, an eighth-grader at Chisholm High School; Briana Joseph, 11, a fifth-grader at St. John Vianney School in Fairmont; and Ammy Lin, 12, a seventh-grader at Forestview Middle School in Baxter.

All five got their first words correct: Klimek (malaria); Meyer (oolong); Joseph (pacifism); Farnberg (kuruma); and Lin (aristocracy).

Last year, two winners were declared after a five-round duel in which neither missed a word. In the end, Sriram Hathwar of Painted Post, N.Y., and Ansun Sujoe of Fort Worth, Texas, shared the prize. It was the fourth time in the bee's history that winners shared the title. Others were in 1950, 1957 and 1962.

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

Within the U.S., all 50 states are represented this year, along with competitors from the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Department of Defense Schools in Europe; also, the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea.

This year's champion receives $35,000 cash, a $2,500 savings bond and reference library materials.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482