The ten finalists—who were allowed two mistakes—were given questions complemented by live critter cameos, a gorilla skull, and even a man posing as a Chinese terra-cotta warrior "sculpture."
To a chorus of awws from the audience, a Bennett's wallaby—its long tail sticking out of a towel—came on stage for a question about the 150-mile-wide (241-kilometer-wide) strait that separates Tasmania from the Australian mainland. Answer: Bass Strait.
A teju, a South American lizard, accompanied a question about its range, which extends from southern Argentina north to Brazil and includes what coastal country located in between? Answer: Uruguay.
Google, which sponsored the event, also sneaked into the competition: In one round, kids were shown Google Earth simulations and asked to name capital cities near natural landmarks.
Oregon's Arjun Kandaswamy, 14, an eighth grader at Meadow Park Middle School in Beaverton, won second place and a $15,000 college scholarship. Third place and a $10,000 college scholarship went to North Carolina's Shantan Krovvidi, 13, a seventh grader at Ligon Middle School in Raleigh.
A "very excited" William Yang said that his Bee-winning son, Eric, is a "very independent boy."
"We try to provide all the support we can, but most of the time he spends his time by himself," William Yang said. The teen enjoys history books, cookbooks, and travel guides.
After the first round, Trebek chatted with the finalists and discovered that Eric Yang had gotten a 2200 on the SATs out of a possible score of 2400—at 13 years old.
"If you had to tell the audience about your weakness what would you say?" Trebek asked.
Yang gulped. Silence.
"You remind me of a former president," Trebek said, and moved on.
Later, as Yang signed books for admiring former competitors, he paused to tell a reporter what he would have told Trebek.
"Procrastination," Yang said. "I do things at the last minute."
But for the Bee, at least, his timing was perfect.