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Spelling Bee Champ Is A Speed-Reading Math Whiz Who Holds 3 World Records


This year’s spelling bee champ is F-A-S-C-I-N-A-T-I-N-G. Zaila Avant-garde, a 14-year-old from Harvey, Louisiana, made history Thursday when she became the first African American winner and the second Black champion in the Scripps National Spelling Bee’s 96-year history.

But that may not even be the most exciting thing about the teen. Zaila, who dipped her toe into competitive spelling just two years ago, knows how to speed-read and discovered that she could divide five-digit numbers by two-digit numbers in her head, according to The New York Times.

Just don’t ask her to explain the secret behind this mathematical feat. “It’s like asking a millipede how they walk with all those legs,” she told the Times. But Zaila isn’t just a brainiac. She’s also a baller.

The talented basketball player has set three Guinness World Records: one for the most basketballs dribbled simultaneously (six basketballs for 30 seconds); the most basketballs bounce (307 bounces in 30 seconds), and the most bounce juggles in one minute (255 using four basketballs).

She’s also got some excellent pogo stick skills. Aside from all of her accomplishments, she just hopes that her historic win Thursday inspires others. “I’m hoping that in a few years, I’ll see a whole lot more African American females, and males too, are doing well in the Scripps Spelling Bee,” Zaila told “Good Morning America” on Friday. “You don’t really see too many African Americans doing too well at spelling bees, and that’s a bit sad because it’s like a perfect thing. It’s a good gate opener to being interested in education.”


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