Home News-Free Harvey teen becomes first champion of National Spelling Bee from Louisiana

Harvey teen becomes first champion of National Spelling Bee from Louisiana

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Zaila Avant-garde leaped with excitement after spelling the winning word, “murraya,” a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees. (Stacey Tinsley)

A 14-year-old girl from Harvey, Louisiana won the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee title Thursday night.

Zaila Avant-garde won the competition with the word “Murraya,” a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees.

The winning prize is $50,000 in cash, along with a trophy.

Her win was quickly celebrated around Louisiana on social media.

“Congratulations to Zaila Avant-garde on winning the Scripps National #SpellingBee,” Tweeted Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. “You have made all of Louisiana P-R-O-U-D.”

She is the first African American winner of the bee and only the second Black champion in the bee’s 96-year-history.

The only previous Black winner of the bee was Jody-Anne Maxwell of Jamaica in 1998.

‘National Spelling Bee Champion’ isn’t her only title; she also holds three Guinness world records for dribbling multiple basketballs simultaneously.

In the future, she hopes to attend Harvard, work for NASA, play in the WNBA and possibly coach in the NBA.

Chaitra Thummala, a 12-year-old from Frisco, Texas, was runner-up. Both Zaila and Chaitra are coached by Cole Shafer-Ray, a 20-year-old Yale student who was the 2015 Scripps runner-up.

The National Spelling Bee competition began with 209 spellers, ranging in age from 9 to 15, from five countries: the US, the Bahamas, Canada, Ghana and Japan.

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