(CMR) Zaila Avant-garde created history on Thursday when she became the first African American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 93 editions of the competition.
The 14-year-old from New Orleans, Louisiana, won the 2021 crown after correctly spelling Murraya. Zaila will receive a $50,000 cash prize.
“It felt really good to win because I have been working on it for like two years. So to actually win the whole thing was like a dream come true,” she told CNN's “New Day” on Friday. “I felt like in the moment I snapped out of a surreal dream.”
The only Black winner before her was Jody-Anne Maxwell, representing Jamaica in 1998. According to the Associated Press, Zaila's win breaks a streak of at least one Indian-American champion every year since 2008.
The National Spelling Bee competition began with 209 spellers, ranging in age from 9 to 15, from five countries: the US, the Bahamas, Canada, Ghana, and Japan. And 11 contestants entered Thursday night's final.
Zaila, who has three Guinness world records for dribbling multiple balls simultaneously, said she hopes to one day play basketball at Harvard before a career at NASA or as a coach in the NBA. She may also pursue a career in neuroscience or gene editing.