for National Geographic News
After a final hour of exhausting competition, Bonny Jain held up the winning ticket for the 2006 National Geographic Bee: a card on which he'd scrawled "Cambrian."
That word answered the tiebreaker: "Name the mountains that extend across much of Wales from the Irish Sea to the Bristol Channel."
With his correct response, Jain claimed a U.S. $25,000 scholarship prize, the title of Bee champion, and a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society. (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)
Of the ten finalists, three were girls, two of whom also happened to be the only homeschooled students among the top ten.
Jain, 12, represented his home state of Illinois for the second straight year. (Related news: "National Geographic Bee: State Winners Earn Their Titles" [April 6, 2005].)
Jeopardy! game show host Alex Trebek emceed the national geography competition for students in grades four through eight.
Last year Jain placed fourth in a field of more than 50 finalists from around the United States.
Trebek noted that the Moline resident's more modest finish in 2005 ended up being part of a good strategy. If he'd placed second or third, he wouldn't have been allowed to compete again this year, according to Bee rules.
"[Last year] I wanted first most, then fourth," Jain said.
His victory wasn't without a few nail-biting moments. At one point Trebek asked Jain to name the Saharan tribe that signed a 1995 peace agreement with the government of Niger.
"I was debated between the Tuareg and Fulani," Jain said later. After a moment's hesitation, he guessed Tuareg. The answer kept him in the match.
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