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African American Spelling Bee Champ Makes History With Flair

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Zaila Avant-garde, 14, from Harvey, Louisiana celebrates 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)

(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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