14-Year-Old Basketball Prodigy Becomes The First African American National Spelling Bee Champion
Photo Credit: Jim Watson

14-Year-Old Basketball Prodigy Becomes The First African American National Spelling Bee Champion

This is “Akeelah and the Bee” personified!

According to CNN, Zaila Avant-garde made history as the first African American contestant to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Avant-garde won all 93 editions of the 2021 competition.

After navigating her way through words like “querimonious,” “solidungulate,” and “Nepeta,” the 14-year-old succeeded in spelling “murraya”– a type of tree — to claim her title as champ.

And, once she was declared the winner, the preteen jumped and twirled with joy!

“I was pretty relaxed on the subject of Murraya and pretty much any other word I got,” shared Avant-garde.

Not only is Avant-garde a whiz on the spelling stage, but the Louisiana native has hoop skills too. She gained over 14,000 followers through sharing her journey to the national spelling bee and videos of her playing basketball.

Along with her title as the spelling bee champ, she also holds three Guinness World Records for most bounce juggles in one minute.

Per the official Guinness World Records Twitter page, Avant-garde first began dribbling at the age of 5 and has her sights set on becoming a professional basketball player for the WNBA someday.

For her, spelling is just a side hobby even though she practiced for seven hours a day to prepare for the competition.

“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,” she said. “I can go out, like my Guinness world records, just leave it right there and walk off.”

“I think the more that the achievements and triumphs of women are promoted and publicized, the more likely it is that other girls all around the world will see that they can do any and everything that they put their minds to,” she said in the video.

The National Spelling Bee competition started with 209 participants that ranged from ages 9 to 15 from the United States, the Bahamas, Canada, Ghana, and Japan.

Only 11 contestants entered Thursday night’s final.

Now, Avant-garde will walk away with the crown for the National Spelling Bee and she will receive a $50,000 cash prize.

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