for National Geographic News
The questions at the 2004 National Geographic Bee started off easy.
"So, are you really excited?" asked National Geographic Society CEO and president John Fahey to the crowd of 55 state winners, families, and friends gathered in Grosvenor Auditorium at National Geographic headquarters in Washington D.C. this morning.
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That was as simple as the questions would be for the ten national finalists, who included four repeat state winners.
In fact, it would be a repeat state winnerAndrew Wojtanik, 14, from Kansaswho, after ten rounds of regular questions and a lightning elimination set, would advance to the championship round and ultimately win first place.
Matthew Wells, 13, from Montana came in second, with Hawaii's Eric Liaw, also a repeat state winner, coming in third.
For taking top honors, Wojtanik received a U.S. $25,000 scholarship from National Geographic, a lifetime Geographic membership, and a trip to a Busch Gardens/Sea World Adventure Camp, provided by second-year corporate sponsor ING.
Wells received a $15,000 scholarship and Liaw a $10,000 scholarship for their respective second- and third-place finishes. The other seven finalists received an award of $500 apiece.
Alex Trebek, Jeopardy! quiz show host, once again moderated the National Geographic Bee finals, now in their 16th straight year. In speaking with the ten finalists, he discovered some interesting facts about the three winners:
Wojtanik prepared for the Bee by compiling a study book with information on all 193 countries. It is 432 pages long and weighs five pounds (2.3 kilograms).
Wells, diminutive at 75 pounds (34 kilograms), is an avid rock climber who said he unfortunately would not be able to belay the 190-pound Trebek (87-kilogram).
Liaw, the youngest finalist, at 12, plays three instruments: piano, violin, and trumpet.
Wojtanik secured his first-place finish by correctly answering three questions in a row during the two-person championship round against Wells:
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