HARVEY, La. — According to Webster Dictionary, the word 'solidungulate' means 'having a single hoof on each foot.' To 14-year-old Zaila Avant-garde, it means success. That's the word that got her into the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Thursday evening, the teen from Harvey will compete with 10 other students from around the country.
"I definitely knew how to spell it," she said ahead of the competition in Orlando, Florida.
If she's anywhere near as good at juggling words as she is juggling basketballs, Avent-garde has nothing to worry about.
It's taken a lot of practice to get here, but she has become a pro at juggling many talents at once, including her numerous accomplishments on the court.
"Basketball is actually the main thing I do. I started playing basketball when I was five years old," Avant-garde said.
She's appeared in a commercial with Stephen Curry and holds three Guinness World Records for dribbling.
"The main one I'm most proud of is the biggest basketball Guinness World Record, which is most basketballs dribbled simultaneously by one person, which is six balls," she said.
Avant-garde has more than 12,000 followers on Instagram and hopes to inspire other young girls.
"Have faith and try new things," she said. "Play sports."
This is only the beginning for the talented teen. She has big dreams for her future.
"I have a lot of different ideas. I might be an NBA basketball coach. I might work for NASA if I can. I also have interest in treating diseases of both the mind and body by studying neuroscience," Avant-garde said.
Thursday night, those ambitions start with spelling for a cash prize of $50,000.
"I feel really good. You never know what can happen, but I hope to get far," she said.
She may not need it, but she has one favor to ask.
"Wish me luck," Avant-garde said.
The spelling bee finals air live at 7 p.m. (CT) on ESPN2.