Home Posts With Her National Spelling Bee Victory, Zaila Avant-garde Makes History.
With Her National Spelling Bee Victory, Zaila Avant-garde Makes History.
Scripps National Spelling Bee

With Her National Spelling Bee Victory, Zaila Avant-garde Makes History.


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Whether dribbling a basketball or identifying obscure Latin or Greek roots, Zaila Avant-garde is unfazed.

On Thursday night, the 14-year-old from Harvey, Louisiana, won the Scripps National Spelling Bee, becoming the bee's first African American winner and only the second Black champion in its 96-year history.

Zaila has described spelling as a side hobby, despite regularly practicing for seven hours a day, and she is a basketball prodigy who hopes to play in the WNBA someday and holds three Guinness world records for dribbling multiple balls at the same time.

After spelling the winning word, "murraya," a genus of tropical Asian and Australian trees, Zaila twirled and leaped with delight.

Only one word stumped her, “nepeta,” a genus of Old World mints, and she jumped even higher when she got it right than when she accepted the trophy.

Chaitra Thummala, a 12-year-old from Frisco, Texas, finished second. Both Zaila and Chaitra are coached by Cole Shafer-Ray, a 20-year-old Yale student who finished second in the Scripps competition in 2015.

Jody-Anne Maxwell of Jamaica was the only previous Black winner of the bee in 1998, and Zaila also ends a streak that began in 2008, when at least one champion or co-champion was of South Asian descent.

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