Zaila Avant-garde, 14, became the first African American to win the 90-year-old Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday by correctly spelling 'Murraya,' a genus of plants, staying cool after a near miss with a botanical word in a previous round.
Fourteen year-old Zaila Avant-garde became the first African American winner of the Scripps National Spelling Bee broadcast on ESPN on Thursday, winning $50,000 and the coveted Scripps Cup.
Avant-garde sealed her victory with the word 'Murraya,' a genus of plants, staying cool after nearly misspelling another botanical word in a previous round.
Hailing from New Orleans, Avant-garde is the first Black contestant to win the championship since Jody-Anne Maxwell from Jamaica in 1998.
She's also an accomplished basketball player, and has even set several Guinness World Records for dribbling multiple basketballs at a time.
Avant-garde told the Associated Press in an interview before the finals she hoped to inspire other African American spelling bee hopefuls, particularly those who might not be able to pay for the lessons needed to be competitive.
12 year old Chaitra Thummala from San Francisco came in second place Thursday after misspelling 'neroli oil,' but still took home a $25,000 prize.
This year's competition added rules meant to avoid having multiple champions, like the eight winners who shared the title in 2019.