Zaila Avant-garde Is the First African American Winner of Scripps National Spelling Bee
By: Teddy Grant
A 14-year-old girl made history on Thursday by becoming the first African American winner at the 93rd Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Spelling the winning word “murraya,” which is a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees, Zaila Avant-garde secured her place in the history books, according to the Associated Press.
Hailing from Harvey, Louisiana, Zaila spun and leaped from excitement after correctly spelling the word and becoming champion.
Frisco, Texas’ Chaitra Thummala, 12, was runner-up in this year’s competition.
Spelling isn’t Zaila’s only interest. She also plays basketball, having appeared in a commercial with the NBA’s Stephen Curry and holds three Guinness World Records for dribbling multiple basketballs at once, according to AP.
“Basketball, I’m not just playing it. I’m really trying to go somewhere with it. Basketball is what I do,” Zaila told AP. “Spelling is really a side thing I do. It’s like a little hors d’ouevre. But basketball’s like the main dish.”
Before her win, Zaila said that she usually spells 13,000 words a day, which takes her about seven hours. “We don’t let it go way too overboard, of course. I’ve got school and basketball to do.”
Despite being the first African American winner, she isn’t the first Black winner. Jody-Anne Maxwell from Jamaica won the national spelling bee in 1998.