Illinois Eighth Grader Wins National Geographic Bee

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Other tough questions he answered with ease.

"The Kikuyu, who led the Mau Mau uprising against the British, are the largest ethnic group in which country in East Africa?" Trebek asked.

"Kenya," Jain replied.


Second-place finisher Neeraj S. Sirdeshmukh, 14, of Nashua, New Hampshire, also handled a series of stumpers.

Geothermal springs are an attraction near Rotorua in what country?

"New Zealand," Sirdeshmukh answered correctly.

Name the only African nation that has Spanish as its official language. "Equatorial Guinea."

From what northern Indian town, in a province of the same name, can one glimpse Mount Everest? "Darjeeling."

Sirdeshmukh's geographic knowledge may serve him well in the years to come. He aims to one day be elected secretary-general of the United Nations.

For now, thanks to his performance today at the National Geographic Society, he has U.S. $15,000 in funds to further his education.

Third-place finisher Yeshwanth R. Kandimalla, 13, of Marietta, Georgia, is also a repeat winner at the state level.

At one point in the competition, Trebek said to him, "Name the Australian island territory in the Indian Ocean that was named for the day it was seen in 1643."

"Christmas Island," Kandimalla replied. He took home a scholarship check worth U.S. $10,000.

Each of the other seven finalists received a U.S. $500 scholarship award.

Whiz Kids

As with many of the finalists, the victor's interest in geography started young. Jain was learning the flags and currencies of the world by age five, his mother, Beena Jain, says.

Geography isn't his only strong subject, though.

Later this month Jain will return to Washington, D.C., to compete with other finalists in the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The two competitions keep his plate full, his mother says, so he doesn't compete nationally in math. That's ironic, she adds. "His strongest subject is math."

Jain hasn't yet entered high school, but he's not likely to have trouble finding a college where he can eventually spend his new scholarship money—he's already aced the SAT.

The other finalists in the top ten are Suneil K. Iyer, 11, of Olathe, Kansas; Krishnan V. Chandra, 13, of Andover, Massachusetts; Drew A. Coffin, 14, of Coralville, Iowa; Matthew J. Vengalil, 13, of Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan; Kelsey K. Schilperoort, 12, of Prescott, Arizona; Paige E. dePolo, 12, of Reno, Nevada; and Autumn R. Hughes, 12, of Wheat Ridge, Colorado.

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