Eighth-grader takes win in state geography bee

Eighth-grader Aparna Nair-Kanneganti had plenty of reasons to be happy about knowing the location of

Eighth-grader Aparna Nair-Kanneganti had plenty of reasons to be happy about knowing the location of the Bay of Plenty.

The bay, which is in New Zealand, was her winning answer in Friday’s New York State National Geographic Bee.

Nair-Kanneganti, of Brewster in Putnam County, was one of 100 students competing for a spot in the 2012 National Geographic Bee in Washington. The event was held in the Clark Auditorium of the New York State Museum in Albany.

It is a bit of redemption for her, since she came in second two years ago. She said the hardest part was just calming herself down before the competition. Nair-Kanneganti believes it is important for people to know their geography.

“It’s a global economy. We’re all kind of connected. We should know about the world we live in,” she said.

Students in the contest knew plenty about the world. They earned spots in the state finals in local school competitions. Then, they took a preliminary test and had to answer all questions correctly to be included in the final group of students.

The material at the geography bee was tough. Students were asked about the climates of various states in the United States and to name the strait that separates the Seward Pennisula from the Chukchi Sea in Asia. The answer: the Bering Strait. Another question asked the location of the Golden Mile — a stretch of beachfront in South Africa.

Missing two questions eliminated a student from the competition. The field was whittled to 10 and then six, then finally a winner was crowned.

Hunter Johns, 14, of Saratoga Springs, had been eliminated earlier in the day in the preliminary rounds on a question about the landlocked country that bordered Bulgaria. He couldn’t remember what he had answered.

“It wasn’t Ukraine,” the correct answer, chimed in his mother, Maureen Sager.

Johns said it is interesting to learn about geography to expand his horizons.

“I get to learn about the world, in a way, that I can’t fully experience,” he said.

To prepare, he took the online quizzes on National Geographic’s website and read an atlas beforehand.

Sager said she was surprised about the amount of material that was covered. “There were countries I had never heard of,” she said.

Competitor Sam Director, 14, of Valley Stream, said he enjoyed being a part of the competition.

“I just like global history. I like knowing about the rest of the world,” he said.

Other local competitors were Kai Fischer of Berne-Knox-Westerlo; Edward Xie of Koda Middle School, Derek Hoffman of Acadia Middle School and Luke Mysliwy of Gowana Middle School, all in Clifton Park; Ciaran Hedderman of Delmar, Bethlehem Central Middle School; Brennan Buhr of Glenmont, St. Thomas the Apostle School; Sean Quinn of Farnsworth Middle School in Guilderland; Richard Custodio of Lake George Junior/Senior High School; Aadya Kaushik of Shaker Junior High School in Latham; Joshua Unverlau of Loudonville; Alexander Wei of Van Antwerp Middle School and Duncan Lindsay of Iroquois Middle School in Niskayuna; and David Teneyck of Draper Middle School in Rotterdam.

The state winner receives $100, “The Complete National Geographic” on DVD and an all-expenses-paid trip to the national finals on May 22-24. The national competition will be moderated by “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek. First prize is a $25,000 scholarship, lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society and a trip for two to the Galápagos Islands. Second- and third-place finishers will receive $15,000 and $10,000 college scholarships, respectively.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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