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Zaila Avant-garde, latest Scripps National Spelling Bee champion, is also a sick basketball player

The 14-year-old Scripps winner holds three Guinness World Records for dribbling

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Zaila Avant-garde celebrates her big win, extensive knowledge of shrubbery.
Zaila Avant-garde celebrates her big win, extensive knowledge of shrubbery.
Screenshot: Guardian News

Despite writing about three kids named after metal bands yesterday, we’re still comfortable calling Zaila Avant-garde the coolest child in the news these days. Not content just to have a killer last name, Avant-garde is also the winner of this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee, holds three Guinness World Records for basketball dribbling, and is only 14 years old.

Avant-garde, a student at New Orleans Chapter Of The Links, won the Bee last night by correctly spelling the word “murraya” (which is a type of plant that grows in Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands, it turns out). A video of her achieving this moment of glory shows Avant-garde facing down the fateful word, asking whether it has anything to do with a comedian and its linguistic origin. She then charges right on through the correct spelling and then spins around in happiness under a shower of confetti. Her win makes her the first Black American Scripps champion in the contest’s history.

Even before pulling this off, though, Avant-garde had won a bunch of Guinness World Records for being really good at basketball. (She considers the work of becoming one of the world’s best spellers “a side hobby” and you can see her showing off how good she is at non-record-winning play in a practice montage.) Avant-garde currently holds three titles related to sick dribbling tricks, including “Most Bounce Juggles In One Minute (Three Basketballs).” You can see what that looks like in a clip tweeted out by Guinness early this morning in celebration of her Scripps win.


In the same video, Avant-garde says she one day wants to win Scripps, announcing too that she’d like to be a professional basketball player and an archaeologist when she’s older. Considering that she’s already managed to achieve one of those goals and can dribble like nobody’s business, we fully expect to hear about a globe-trotting, basketball-dunking archaeologist who writes perfectly spelled field reports before long.

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