Despite the threat of Hurricane Elsa, the 2021 National Spelling Bee was held as scheduled at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida. Eleven finalists gathered to compete, but only one would emerge victorious. While the format of the bee was slightly different, the unwavering poise and confidence of each speller was reminiscent of years past. One by one, the spellers took to the microphone, arming themselves with all the possible information to help them spell their given word correctly.
During the first round, five of the 11 contestants were eliminated. Every remaining speller aced the new vocabulary element, and because the bee ended within the two-hour time slot, the spell-off tiebreaker was not used.
Bhavana Madini, a finalist in the 2020 Kaplan and Hexco Online Spelling Bee, finished third after slipping on athanor. Chaitra Thummala misspelled nereli oil, earning her the second-place title. Chaitra came in third place at the 2020 Kaplan and Hexco Online Spelling Bee, and with two years left to compete, we will likely see her again on the national stage.
The winner of the 2020 Kaplan and Hexco Online Spelling Bee expectedly became the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion. Zaila Avant-garde correctly spelled challenging words such as ancistroid, duchesse, depreter, fidibus, and retene. She was a joy to watch as she humbly progressed throughout the competition, high-fiving her competitors while celebrating each victory. She even provided pronouncer Jacques Bailly with correct etymologies and definitions. While her performance seemed effortless, there was one word that seemed to give her trouble; Nepeta, a genus of mints, caused her to hesitate on the second vowel, but she prevailed. Her winning word was Murraya, a tree genus of Asia and Australia, and she slipped in a Bill Murray joke before sharing the correct spelling. The win earned her the $50,000 cash prize and a special place in history.
Hexco wants to congratulate all spellers and their families for their hard work and dedication, and we are also extremely proud of Zaila and wish her great success in whatever she decides to do next!