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14-year-old Zaila Avant-Garde: first Black student to win Scripps National Spelling Bee

by Mike Creef, Staff Writer
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Zaila Avant-garde, 14, from Harvey, Louisiana celebrates after winning the finals of the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee at Disney World Thursday, July 8, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Eighth grader Zaila Avant-Garde has already accomplished more in her 14 years of life than most adults have in their first 50. Thursday night 14-year-old Zaila Avant-Garde became the first Black winner of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The Louisiana native spelled “Murraya” to capture the crown of the 93rd spelling bee.

Thursday night was a historic night at the spelling bee in many ways. The last 12 champions of the Scripps National Spelling Bee have been of Indian descent. Avant-Garde is the first Black winner as well as the first winner from Louisiana.

“I was pretty relaxed on the subject of Murraya and pretty much any other word I got,” Zaila said in a post-match interview.

Zaila already broke records before spelling bee win

The crazy part is, Avant-Garde considers spelling a side hobby. The 14-year-old holds three Guinness World Records for dribbling multiple balls simultaneously.

  • Most balls juggled in one minute with four basketballs
  • Most dribbles in 30 seconds with four basketballs
  • Most basketballs dribbled by one person simultaneously (6)

“I kind of thought I would never be into spelling again, but I’m also happy that I’m going to make a clean break from it,” Avant-Garde said. “I can go out, like my Guinness World Records, just leave it right there, and walk off.”

Avant-Garde is considered a basketball prodigy being one of the top eighth-grade prospects in the country. Her next goal is to make the 2022 USA Basketball under-16 national team, and by the looks of her track record, we fully expect her to be on that team.

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