It took Tara Huber 36 minutes into Round 1 to receive her first word in the 61st annual National Spelling Bee that opened Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Twelve years ago, when the Deseret News joined the program, the round would have been completed and Round 2 would have been at word No. 5.Tara, 11, the Utah representative to the national contest after capturing the newspaper-sponsored bee April 8, is one of the record 200 spellers here. A daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Victor Huber of Vernal, she is a sixth-grade student at Vernal Middle School.

As No. 94, she correctly spelled velocity as her first-round word.

Until 1986, the first round was for practice only and any misspelled words did not eliminate the speller. But due to the large number of spellers, bee officials eliminated the practice round.

The first round began at 9:07 a.m. (EDT) after introductions of the judges and final instructions from Dr. Alex J. Cameron, the official word pronouncer. Most first-round words were relatively simple, such as potatoes, upright, zigzag and apathy. They were taken from the booklet, "Words of the Champions," which all Utah district winners received to prepare for the state meet.

Although the first-round words were easy for most spellers, hitchhike and jargon spelled d-e-f-e-a-t for Monekia Gause, 11, a sixth-grader from Shallotte, N.C., Middle School, and Brian Yates, 12, a seventh-grader at Kirtland, Ohio, Middle School.

Following a 20-minute break, the 198 remaining spellers returned for Round 2. Tara correctly spelled turnstile to survive the morning session of the National Spelling Bee.

But for several youngsters, the 1988 spelling bee was over.

Most of the young spellers, cautious that perhaps they misunderstood a word, asked Cameron for definitions. Not satisfied, they often asked for the use of the word in a sentence or its origin.

Of this year's spelling champions, 102 are girls and 98 are boys. They represent sponsoring newspapers in 47 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

In Utah, the Deseret News covers the entire state to include public, private and parochial schools. The state bee is sponsored in cooperation with the State Office of Education, Utah Education Association and State PTA.

Tara is a guest of the Deseret News during Bee Week, which opened Monday and continues through Friday. She is accompanied by her parents, Victor and Karen Huber, and two sisters.