NEW ORLEANS — A 14-year-old Harvey girl is the Scripps National Spelling Bee champion. Zaila Avant-garde, a local basketball dribbling prodigy who has received national recognition, is now being recognized for her other talents as well.
Avant-garde correctly spelled the word “murraya" for the win.
Murraya is "a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian tree."
The event was shown on ESPN Thursday night.
"It's super exciting to win because I'm going to get a nice trophy," she said afterward. "That's the best part of any win."
The victory also comes with a $50,000 prize.
Her win was quickly celebrated around Louisiana on social media.
"Congratulations to Zaila Avant-garde on winning the Scripps National #SpellingBee," Tweeted Governor John Bel Edwards. "You have made all of Louisiana P-R-O-U-D."
The 14-year-old from Harvey, Lousiana, didn't show much stress on stage and only struggled with one word. She is the first African American winner of the bee and only the second Black champion in the bee's 96-year-history.
Avant-garde has more than 12,000 followers on Instagram and hopes to inspire other young girls.
"Have faith and try new things," she said. "Play sports."
This is only the beginning for the talented teen. She has big dreams for her future.
"I have a lot of different ideas. I might be an NBA basketball coach. I might work for NASA if I can. I also have interest in treating diseases of both the mind and body by studying neuroscience," Avant-guard said.
Thursday night, those ambitions start with spelling for a cash prize of $50,000.
"I feel really good. You never know what can happen, but I hope to get far," she said.