Scripps National Spelling Bee/ Youtube
Move over Akeelah! There’s a new speller in town!
14-year-old Zaila Avant-Garde, a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, has been crowned the champion at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The win makes her the first African American ever to win the competition.
Her winning word, murraya, was a no-brainer for her. When many would lose their focus, Zaila’s was concentrated on Bill Murray and even cracked some jokes. She credited her association between the word murraya and the famous comedian for spelling the word correctly.
“It felt really good to win because I have been working on it for like two years. So to actually win the whole thing was like a dream come true,” she told CNN’s “New Day”. “I felt like in the moment I snapped out of a surreal dream.”
Zaila’s journey to champion did not come to her as easily as it may seem. She battled through the words like solidungulate, querimonious, and nepeta.
Zaila even made it known of her struggles with nepeta, saying it was the hardest word she had to spell in the competition.
“It would have been really bad if I had gotten knocked out then,” she said, “because I would have been kicking myself, because I knew everything about the word except exactly how to spell it”.
The Scripps National Spelling Bee was able to resume this year after missing last year due to the coronavirus. The first time the event has not taken place since World War II.
Zaila entered the contest among 209 spellers, ages 9-15, representing 5 countries around the world: The United States, the Bahamas, Canada, Ghana, and Japan.
The title of National Spelling Bee champion is only the tip of the iceberg, however, when it comes to Zaila’s accomplishments. Along with being a spelling savant, she holds three Guinness World Records for dribbling basketballs. She hopes to one day play in the WNBA or coach in the NBA, before a career with NASA.
“Basketball, I’m not just playing it,” said Zaila in an interview with Nola.com. “I’m really trying to go somewhere with it. Basketball is what I do. Spelling is really a side thing I do. It’s like a little hors d’oeuvre. But basketball’s like the main dish.”
Zaila’s platform has grown larger since she began the journey to spelling champ.
Her Instagram account has grown to over 40k followers, who all enjoy watching her impressive basketball videos.
After her amazing win, Zaila’s popularity exploded and her name began to echo through communities. In addition to her accolades, Zaila has received an outcry of support from fans across the globe. So much in fact that she has been offered not one, but three full-ride scholarships in her home state of Louisiana. Southern University, the most recent to offer Zaila, proposed the idea to include a “Zaila Day” in their SU festivities.
Lousiana Community and Technical College System was the first to offer Avant-garde a scholarship, followed closely by Lousiana State University.
Aspiring screenwriter, from the Philadelphia area. A Morgan State University student with a hope to write content that means something and will be admired.