14-Year-Old Zaila Avant-garde Just Made Spelling Bee History

Ever heard of the word “Murraya”? Don’t worry, us either. However, there is someone who is very familiar with the word: 14-year-old Zaila Avant-garde. 

In fact, the eighth-grade student from Harvey, Louisianna, correctly spelled the word (which is a type of tree) and won the title at the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee championship on Thursday. “Murraya. Does this word contain, like, the English name 'Murray,' which could be the name of a comedian?” Avant-garde asked during the final moments of the competition per Yahoo News

After her win, the teen told reporters, “I was pretty relaxed on the subject of Murraya and pretty much any other word I got.” Spoken like a true champion. 

The win also made Avant-garde the first African American winner in the history of the competition, which began almost 100 years ago. Not to mention, the title also makes her the second Black champion ever. (Jody-Anne Maxwell of Jamaica was first back in 1998.)

Turns out, spelling (which she practices seven hours a day) is just another side hobby for Avante-garde. The 14-year-old is also a basketball prodigy and holds three Guinness world records for dribbling multiple basketballs simultaneously. Her ultimate goal is to play the sport professionally. 

Her confidence and ability took the internet by storm with viewers of the Bee sharing their praise across multiple platforms. One Twitter user wrote, “3 Guinness World Records & now a @ScrippsBee Champion!!!! I want to be Zaila when I grow up.”

Congratualtions, Zaila! We can’t wait to see what else you accomplish in the upcoming years. 

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