Zaila Avant-garde, a 14-year-old from New Orleans, Louisiana, won the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday, becoming the first African American contestant to win in 93 editions of the competition.
Avant-garde triumphed after correctly spelling murraya — a type of tree — to clinch the championship. To get there, the teen had to navigate her way through words like “querimonious,” “solidungulate,” and “Nepeta,” a word the teen had to reset on, and let out a joyous jump after her correct spelling.
Avant-garde will receive a $50,000 cash prize.
On Instagram, where she has gained a following of more than 14,000 people, she has shared her victorious journey toward the national spelling bee as well as videos of her playing basketball, impressing her followers with her hoop skills.
“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,” she said in the video.
The National Spelling Bee competition began with 209 spellers, ranging from 9 to 15 years old, from five countries: the US, the Bahamas, Canada, Ghana and Japan. And 11 contestants entered Thursday night’s final.
First lady Dr. Jill Biden was on hand to cheer on the competitors at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.