Ten Students Advance to Geographic Bee Finals

Jennifer Vernon
for National Geographic News
May 20, 2003
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After an impressive demonstration of knowledge and poise, the top ten finalists emerged from the preliminary rounds of the 2003 National Geographic Bee, held earlier today at the Wyndham City Center hotel in Washington, D.C.

Today's finalists (see the full list below) will compete tomorrow at National Geographic headquarters in Washington to determine this year's National Geographic Bee champion. The event will be moderated by Jeopardy host Alex Trebek, webcast live at 10 a.m. eastern time on, and televised on the National Geographic Channel and on public television stations around the country (see local listings for details).

With a 15-second time limit to respond, the 55 state and territory Bee winners in today's preliminary round rallied to answer questions on physical geography, world cultures, economics, history, and current events given in a range of formats from verbal to visual.

After results from the five preliminary rounds were compiled and seven clear winners were named, a tie-breaker round was held to determine who out of the remaining 13 highest scorers would fill the last three slots.

"I'm really excited," said Dallas Simons, Tennessee, a newly deemed finalist. "But a little nervous, too."

Here for his second Bee, Jacob Felts, Arkansas, was the only finalist to get a perfect score in the preliminary round. "Ever since the third grade, people said, 'Wow, he's really got a knack for this—he could really go far.' So I had a lot of encouragement from my teachers and parents."

This year's bee had the highest number of girls competing—7 out of 55—since 1990, when a girl last won the championship. Kathryn Prose, Colorado, the lone girl to make the finals, was unfazed by her unique status. "I'm the only girl in most of the clubs I'm in at school. So I guess I'm used to it!"

Despite the competitive spirit permeating the Bee, staff, teachers, and parents worked hand-in-hand to promote a relaxed atmosphere.

"This really is a great amount of fun," said Laura Pizzuto, mother of contestant David Pizzuto, Delaware. "The object, I think, is to meet other kids and to enjoy—that's really the whole point." David's teacher, Todd Helmecki, agreed. "You can't skip out on the important things in life."

Although David did not make the finals, the Pizzutos were undeterred. "We had nothing to lose, and everything to gain, from being here," Mrs. Pizzuto said. "After all, they're all winners."

Check tomorrow for more news about the champion and runners-up.

Top Ten National Geographic Bee Finalists 2003

Jacob Felts
is a 14-year-old 8th grader at Highland High School in Hardy, north-west of Jonesboro. He represented Arkansas in the 2002 National Geographic Bee. He'd like to be a political scientist, ambassador, or geography professor. Jacob enjoys bluegrass and country music and drawing maps.

Kathryn Prose
is a 13-year-old 8th grader at D'Evelyn Jr. High School in Denver. She enjoys opera, studies Mandarin and Latin, takes part in band competitions, and is interested in politics and international affairs. This summer she's going to Italy and Greece with her Latin class.

District of Colombia
Thomas Meyerson
is a 13-year-old 8th grader from Blessed Sacrament School. He represented D.C. in the 2002 National Geographic Bee. The coolest place he's been is Rome, where he saw the Pope. He's a First Class Boy Scout and plays basketball and the saxophone. He'd love to be a stand-up comedian.

David Goldman
is a 14-year-old 8th grader at University School of Nova South-eastern University in Fort Lauderdale. The best place he's visited is Los Angeles, where he met the cast of The Simpsons. He tutors kids in Hebrew studies and hopes to have a career in politics.

Christopher Butler
is 13 years old and in the 8th grade at Shaker Heights Middle School in Shaker Heights, near Cleveland. He enjoys composing music, collecting license plates, and traveling. His favorite destination so far has been Moscow, where he stood inside the Kremlin. He'd like to visit Japan and Australia.

Samuel Brandt
is an 11-year-old 6th grader at Roosevelt Middle School in Eugene. He plays the trombone, sings in a choir and enjoys basketball and baseball. He hopes to be a broadcaster one day. The best place he's been is a French camp in Vancouver, Canada, where he sea-kayaked.

Rhode Island
Karan Takhar
is a 12-year-old 6th grader at The Gordon School in East Providence. He'd like to be an entrepreneur and introduce new products and ideas to the world. He plays the piano and enjoys reading. He admires the United Nations' Kofi Annan for his devotion to peace.

Dallas Simons
is a 13-year-old 7th grader at Martin Luther King Magnet School in Nashville. He swims on a year-round swim team and enjoys basketball and computers. He'd love to be a National Geographic photographer, so he could go on expeditions and travel around the world.

Washington (state)
James Williams
is a homeschooled 14-year-old 8th grader from Vancouver. He is captain of the Washington-Oregon Science Bowl team and a member of the Washington State Science Olympiad team, both going to nationals later this year. He'd love to go to Antarctica to see the research stations.

Sean Rao
is a 14-year-old 8th grader at St. Gabriel School in Hubertus, near Milwaukee. He represented Wisconsin in the 2001 National Geographic Bee. He enjoys drawing maps, playing the flute, hiking and biking, and is interested in languages. He'd love to be ambassador to the U.K.

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