As one of the top 8th grade basketball players in the United States, Zaila Avant-garde should be quite familiar with the concept of “survive and advance.”Stories
Now, the 14-year-old from Harvey, Louisiana, knows just what it’s like to have her one shining moment.
Zaila prevailed in the final round over 12-year-old Chaitra Thummala of Frisco, Texas, by correctly spelling the word “Murraya” – a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees having pinnate leaves and flowers.
Zaila outlasted a field of 11 finalists to win the 2021 title and the first-place prize of $50,000 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. In the process, she became the first Louisiana resident and the first African-American to win the title in the competition’ 93-year history.
Last year’s event was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, and this year’s preliminaries were all virtual so the competitors who made Thursday night’s finals were appearing on stage for the first time – though several had made it in previous years.