Minnesota Boy Wins 2005 National Geographic Bee

David Braun
National Geographic News
May 25, 2005
The National Geographic Bee champion for 2005 is Nathan Cornelius of

The homeschooled 13-year-old from Cottonwood, in the southwestern part of the state, edged out Rhode Island's Karan Takhar, a 14-year-old eighth grader at the Gordon School in East Providence, in a tense competition today at the National Geographic Society's headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Samuel Brandt, 13, in eighth grade at Roosevelt Middle School in Eugene, Oregon, came in third.

All three boys are three-time winners of their respective state-level National Geographic Bee competitions.

Cornelius, this year's national champion, won a U.S. $25,000 scholarship for college. Takhar and Brandt were awarded college scholarships worth $15,000 and $10,000 respectively. Cornelius also won lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society.

Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek put more than a hundred questions to the ten finalists who took part in today's final round.

Cornelius and Takhar emerged as the top two students. They faced off in the championship round of questioning designed to produce a champion.

The boys correctly answered a long series of questions until Takhar was unable to name the river that was dammed to form Lake Gatún as part of the construction of the Panama Canal. (Cornelius correctly answered that it is the Chagres River.)

Favorite Subject

"I think geography is my favorite subject," Cornelius said in an interview after the competition.

He started taking part in the National Geographic Bee four years ago, going on to win the Minnesota state-level bee in 2003, 2004, and 2005. "I spend a couple of hours a day studying geography by looking at atlases and geography books," he said. "I've also used the Bee quiz [on the National Geographic Web site] and the National Geographic Desk Reference."

Cornelius also got help by reading Afghanistan to Zimbabwe: Country Facts That Helped Me Win the National Geographic Bee, a book written by last year's Bee champion, Andrew Wojtanik of Kansas.

Cornelius said his mother, Michele, is his teacher, "but both my parents helped quiz me for the Bee."

Will he grow up to be a geographer? "I think I'd like to do something to do with geography," Cornelius said. "Perhaps I will be a nature photographer or a meteorologist."

Cornelius is already a keen photographer and likes to take pictures on visits to national parks. He also plays the piano and classical guitar. And although he is only 13, he has already taken the SAT. His score: 1520.

Today's competition was the 17th annual National Geographic Bee, a contest started by the National Geographic Society to encourage the study of geography.

Five million fourth through eighth graders in nearly 15,000 schools across the United States take part in the preliminary round of the Bee. Top school winners qualify to compete at the state level. State winners go to Washington, D.C., for a two-day competition that produces ten finalists and eventually the national champion.

The ten finalists who took part in today's Bee final, as well as last year's ten national finalists, are eligible to apply to take part in the seventh National Geographic World Championship. The competition will be held in Budapest, Hungary, from July 10 to 15. Also hosted by the National Geographic Society, the National Geographic World Championship will pit 21 teams from around the globe against one another for the world title.

The 2005 National Geographic Bee was sponsored by the JPMorgan Chase financial services firm.

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