13-year-old girl wins $10,000 in Kaplan’s first virtual spelling bee

13-year-old girl wins $10,000 in Kaplan’s first virtual spelling bee
File photo by Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay

A 13-year-old Louisiana girl won first place in Kaplan’s first virtual spelling bee Saturday.

Zaila Avant-Garde took home a $10,000 prize and a championship trophy.

The seventh grader completed six days, 18 hours and 504 words through 31 rounds of spelling.

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The winning word was “Qashqai,” which refers to a migratory Turkic-speaking people of the Zagros mountains.

Zaila beat out 88 other contestants across the country.

Other words she spelled included “haraes,” and “yponomeutid.” According to Merriam-Webster, a yponomeutid is a type of moth. There is no definition for “haraes” in the online dictionary.

Zaila, who said that she has always loved reading, said that even if she hadn’t won, she would’ve been proud of herself for making it to the finals.

She spent five to six hours studying each day leading up to the competition.

“I’d study wherever and whenever I could, whether it was while I was eating breakfast, riding in the car, or even while I was on a short break during basketball practice,” she said. “But mostly I’d just sit at my desk, turn on a podcast, an old-time radio show, or some music, and study words as fast and as carefully as I could via the help of many different spelling resources.”

Zaila said studying words and spelling taught her a lot about linguistics, history and perseverance.

“The skills that you learn as a competitive speller are skills that will benefit you for the rest of your life,” she said.

The spelling bee win isn’t her only notable achievement: Earlier this year, she broke the Guinness World Record for the most bounce juggles in one minute.

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Zaila said she wants to be an archaeologist or a WNBA player when she grows up.

“I think the more the achievements and triumphs of women are promoted and publicized, the more likely it is that little girls around the world will see that they can do any and everything they put their minds to,” she said.