Coming in second at the New York State National Geographic Bee seems to be a predictor of success.
For the second year in a row, the winner was the previous year’s runner-up at the event. Gabe Straus, seventh-grader at the Collegiate School for Boys in New York City, emerged victorious Friday at the New York State Museum by correctly answering the last question in a series of three: Name an Asian country with a constitutional monarchy and one of the world’s largest importers of coal. The answer: Japan.
Straus said he was shocked by the result.
“Last year, I had absolutely no expectation of making it on stage and this year, there’s so much luck involved. You have no idea who your competition is going to be,” he said.
Straus said he pored over geography books and had his mother quiz him on material.
“Over my spring break, I studied all day, every day,” he said.
Straus said he has been fascinated with geography since he was 2 years old.
“It connects everything in the world. Everything you can think of fits in with geography,” he said.
The competition was stiff. A total of 100 students started the competition at the beginning of the day. Following preliminary rounds, the field had been whittled to 10.
After two incorrect answers, a contestant is eliminated from the competition.
The contestants easily sailed through the first few rounds of questions — all concerning U.S. geography. Then, the subject material got a little tougher with questions about countries all over the world:
• What country on the Black and Mediterranean Sea was historically at the heart of the Ottoman Empire at its height? Turkey.
• What city was built between two of Australia’s largest cities to be its planned capital? Canberra.
• What country formerly known as Southern Rhodesia was granted its independence from the United Kingdom? Zimbabwe.
Straus outlasted them all. For winning, he earned $100 and a spot in the 25th annual National Geographic Bee in Washington, D.C., in May. Second place and $75 went to Keshav Rastogi, 13, an eighth-grader at Scarsdale Middle School. Third place and $50 went to 14-year-old eighth-grader Evan Allen of Pittsford.
Each member of the top 3 received a DVD containing a digital copy of every issue of National Geographic since its 1888 inception.
First prize in the national competition is a $25,000 college scholarship and an all-expenses-paid trip for two to the Galápagos Islands.
Although they didn’t make it to the top group, other local competitors enjoyed the experience.
Ahmed W. Lachgar, an eighth-grader from Albany, also is passionate about geography.
“It’s just interesting. It’s fun,” he said.