Kansas Student Wins 2004 National Geographic Bee

Jennifer Vernon
for National Geographic News
May 26, 2004
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.

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 winner—Andrew Wojtanik, 14, from Kansas—who, 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:

• In March 2004 seven eastern European countries joined NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Of these new NATO members, name the one that borders the Russian oblast of Kaliningrad. (Answer: Lithuania).

• Khark island is an important oil export terminal in the Persian Gulf. This island belongs to what country? (Answer: Iran).

• Peshawar, a city in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, has had strategic importance for centuries because of its location near what historic pass? (Answer: Khyber Pass).

With this sure display of geographic knowledge, Wojtanik clinched his championship title and wowed onlookers and Geographic staff alike.

"[The Bee is] the only day that we [National Geographic employees] enjoy being humble when it comes to the knowledge of others in the realm of geography," remarked Fahey.

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