Zaila Avant-garde to Compete in Life-Changing National Spelling Bee

By Briasia Russ

14-year-old Zaila Avant-garde is competing in the finals for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. This spelling bee isn’t just your normal spelling bee. The Scripps intentionally allows for the competitors to spell words pertaining to interests in sports and science. This shows the kids aren’t just spelling difficult words from a dictionary.  

Not only does Zaila have a chance in making history, but she is a basketball sensation. As reported by AP News, Zaila has been featured in a commercial with basketball star Stephen Curry and owns three Guinness world records for dribbling multiple balls simultaneously. 

RELATED: National Spelling Bee to return in mostly virtual format

According to AP News, Zaila is more into basketball than spelling. However, she balances both spelling practice and basketball.  

“Basketball, I’m not just playing it. I’m really trying to go somewhere with it. Basketball is what I do,” Zaila said. “Spelling is really a side thing I do. It’s like a little hors d’ouevre. But basketball’s like the main dish.” 

“For spelling, I usually try to do about 13,000 words (per day), and that usually takes about seven hours or so,” Zaila said. “We don’t let it go way too overboard, of course. I’ve got school and basketball to do.”  

Thursday night, Zaila will compete against 10 other spellers. Due to the pandemic, there is a limited capacity at the venue and masks are required.  

As for the future, Zaila has plans to attend Harvard and become a coach for the NBA.    

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