On Thursday evening, Zalia Avant-garde became the Scripps National Spelling Bee champ after knocking out the word “murraya,” which sounds nothing like it looks it should, and is a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees. After locking down the win, Avant-garde danced and twirled on stage as she became the first Black champion of the Scripps competition since Jody-Anne Maxwell of Jamaica in 1998.
Remember the name: Zaila Avant-garde pic.twitter.com/UYIT0kwWeu
— The Recount (@therecount) July 9, 2021
As Avant-garde’s celebratory moment went viral, the world started quickly learning how she was able to navigate the spelling champion so smoothly under pressure: She’s a star basketball player. And she’s not just any star player, we’re talking she’s broken three Guinness World Records. In fact, she essentially told the Associated Press that winning the spelling champion wasn’t a huge priority, and the win is just icing on the cake to her basketball accomplishments:
Zaila has other priorities, which perhaps explains how she came to dominate this year’s bee. The 14-year-old from Harvey, Louisiana, is a basketball prodigy who owns three Guinness world records for dribbling multiple balls simultaneously and hopes to one day play in the WNBA or even coach in the NBA. She described spelling as a side hobby, even though she routinely practiced for seven hours a day.
“I kind of thought I would never be into spelling again, but I’m also happy that I’m going to make a clean break from it,” Zaila said. “I can go out, like my Guinness world records, just leave it right there, and walk off.”
Avant-garde has been documenting her basketball moves on social media, and you can see for herself that she’s clearly a hoops prodigy on top of now dominating the world of spelling:
🏆🏆🏆 6th & 7th grade #Highlights. Wait 'till you see her now , ⚡️💨🤯#waayyybetter. Been working like usual. [For more extensive highlights check out her Instagram page: @basketballasart]. 🖖🏀 pic.twitter.com/xkUcgtvSXW
— Zaila Avant-garde (@Basketballasart) October 19, 2020
(Via Associated Press)