Faces of Black Excellence July 09, 2021 at 09:52 am

14-year-old Zaila Avant-garde now first African American to win National Spelling Bee

Francis Akhalbey | Content Manager

Francis Akhalbey July 09, 2021 at 09:52 am

July 09, 2021 at 09:52 am | Faces of Black Excellence

Zaila Avant-garde is the first African American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee competition since its inception in 1925 -- Photo via @ScrippsBee on Twitter

Fourteen-year-old Zaila Avant-garde wrote her name in the history books on Thursday when she became the first African American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee competition since its inception in 1925.

Until Zaila’s history-making feat, Jamaica’s Jody-Anne Maxwell was the only Black contestant to have won the prestigious competition. That was in 1998, CNN reported.

Zaila edged over her competitors by correctly spelling words including “querimonious,” “solidungulate,” as well as “Nepeta.” The championship-winning word the 14-year-old correctly spelled was “murraya” – a tree species.

The teen’s history-making achievement, however, does not come off as something new as she already holds other notable records. Zaila, who is also extremely talented at basketball and dreams of playing in the WNBA, holds three Guinness World Records for achievements in that sporting category. The records include most balls juggled in one minute with four basketballs, most dribbles in 30 seconds with four basketballs and most basketballs dribbled by one person simultaneously (6), according to ESPN.

Moreover, Zaila also finished second at the 2020 International Jugglers’ Association championship [Juniors Division (18U)]. She is also a unicyclist and she can impressively ride the one-wheeled vehicle while juggling.

“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,” Zaila said in an interview with Guinness World Records last year.

Thursday’s National Spelling Bee finals, which was held at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, was attended by first lady Dr. Jill Biden. This year’s competition saw over 200 contestants aged between nine and 15 years from countries including the United States, Ghana, the Bahamas, Canada and Japan, CNN reported. And Thursday’s finals saw 11 spellers vying for the ultimate title.

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