African American spelling bee champ makes history with flair

PHL17 News

Zaila Avant-garde, 14, from Harvey, Louisiana celebrates with the championship trophy 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)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The nation’s first African American winner has breezed to victory at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Fourteen-year-old Zaila Avant-garde of Harvey, Louisiana, didn’t show much stress on stage and only struggled with one word in Thursday’s finals.

She is only the second Black champion in the bee’s 96-year history after Jody-Anne Maxwell of Jamaica in 1998.

Zaila described spelling as a side hobby, though she routinely practiced seven hours daily. A basketball prodigy, she hopes to play in the WNBA and holds three Guinness world records for dribbling multiple balls simultaneously.

Zaila leaped with excitement after spelling the winning word, “Murraya,” a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees.

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