John Raoux / AP
Lake Buena Vista, Florida — Whether you’re dribbling basketball or identifying ambiguous roots in Latin or Greek, Zaila Avant-garde isn’t too stressful. Today, she is the first African-American winner in Scripps National Spelling Bee’s 96-year history.
A 14-year-old boy from Harvey, Louisiana blew the championship on Thursday night. Previously the only black winner was also Jamaica’s Jodi Ann Paterson, the only champion from outside the United States in 1998.
Zyra said she knew completely that people were looking at her and dreaming of following in her footsteps.
“I’m hoping that within the next few years we’ll see a small influx of African Americans and not so many Hispanics, so I’d love to see them there as well,” she said. ..
Zaila practiced 7 hours a day on a daily basis, but explains spelling as a side job. She is a basketball genius who wants to play for the WNBA someday and holds three Guinness World Records for dribbling multiple balls at the same time.
Zaila jumped around with excitement after spelling the victorious word “murraya,” a genus of tropical Asian and Australian trees.
Only the word “nepeta”, a genus of old-world mint, caused her a real problem, and when she got it right, she jumped even higher than when she took the trophy.
“I’ve always struggled with those words. I’ve heard them many times. There are some words I don’t understand. For Speller, I just understand them, I can’t understand them correctly.” She says. Said. “I even knew it was a genus of plants. I know what you are, and I can’t get you.”
This year’s bees were different than before, as last year’s bees were canceled due to a coronavirus pandemic. Moved from its usual location on the outskirts of Washington to the ESPN campus in Florida, only the top 11 Spellers competed directly. The previous round was virtually held.
In contrast to the hundreds of fans and former Spellers who normally pack bee ballrooms, only Speller’s direct family members were allowed to participate. However, there was one fan who got a lot of attention. It’s the First Lady Jill Biden.
The tournament itself was also different. In 2019, the Scripps word list wasn’t comparable to a deeply talented discipline, with bees ending in eight draws.
This year, five of the 11 finalists left after the first round, and Zaila became the champion in less than two hours. If the bees reach the two-hour mark, a new lightning-fast tiebreaker will determine the winner.
Zaila will bring back over $ 50,000 in cash and prizes. She used the $ 10,000 prize from an online bee she won last year to pay for a lesson with coach Cole Shafer-Ray, runner-up in 2015 Scripps. Top speller.
The 12-year-old Chaitra Thummala from Frisco, Texas — another student at Shafer-Ray — was the runner-up. She has two years of qualifications and will soon be one of her favorites next year.
The only previous black winner of the bee was Jamaica’s Jodi Ann Paterson in 1998. Zyra also defeats a streak dating back to 2008, when at least one champion or co-champion was of South Asian descent.