After many grueling rounds that tested geographic knowledge of lions in Botswana, mountain ranges in Asia, and port cities in England, 12-year-old Sathwik Karnik from Norfolk, Massachusetts, was named the winner of the 25th annual National Geographic Bee. (Read a live blog from the Geo Bee.)
Karnik correctly named Chimborazo—a mountain peak in Ecuador—as the peak on Earth that's farthest from the earth's center to best 13-year-old Conrad Oberhaus, of Lincolnshire, Illinois, in a heated final round.
The seventh-grader at King Philip Regional Middle School reaps the grand-prize rewards: a $25,000 college scholarship, a trip to the Galápagos Islands (for himself and one parent), and a lifetime membership to the National Geographic Society. (See Geo Bee questions from past years.)
Nearly five million students started in this year's national geography competition. After state and local bouts, those millions were whittled down to the top 54, and then the final 10—who will all appear in the final televised round. (It airs on the National Geographic Channel on Thursday, May 23, at 7 p.m. ET.)
Three of the finalists happened to be siblings of former finalists—including Karnik. His older brother participated in the Bee finals in both 2011 and 2012, finishing fifth and sixth, respectively.
"I'm just speechless," the bespectacled winner said moments after winning the entire competition. "I didn't expect to win, and I have no idea what I'm going to do next."
Immediate plans following the Bee involved lunch with the other contestants, then resting with his parents and older brother Karthik, who helped him prepare for the competition. "I forgot to sleep last night," the winner confessed.
The siblings practiced for hours a day, with 15-year-old Karthik creating increasingly harder geography tests for his little brother. (Take the Geo Bee quiz.)
"I tried to serve as an example," said Karthik. "And I also tried to imitate Alex Trebek, to help him."
Trebek's Last Bee
Trebek, the longtime host of the Bee, was taking part in his final competition this year. (Related: "Alex Trebek On Hosting the National Geographic Bee.")
As always, he bantered with contestants and tried to calm their nerves.
Not all of the contestants were nervous. Neelam Sandhu, an eighth-grader from New Hampshire, revealed that she was "pretty relaxed" as the finals competition got underway.
Tuvya Bergson-Michelson, the California representative, said he tried to stay calm so that he could remember the atlases he had studied for months.
"My head wasn't nervous," he said. "But my heart was beating a little fast."
After the competition's end, Bergson-Michelson collected autographs from his fellow competitors as parents lingered around the stage waiting for their children.
Albert Grunenwald, from Ames, Iowa, had driven to Washington, D.C., with his family two days earlier to watch his son Jonathon compete in the Bee.
"It's just such a great opportunity to be here and see how far Jonathon has come," he said. "It's so neat to see him rewarded in this way."