ST. CLOUD – Minnesota's brightest young geography students were all over the map — in a good way — at Friday's 25th annual National Geographic Bee state competition at St. Cloud State University.
Ten young whizzes — the top competitors from among 101 fourth- to eighth-grade students who took part in the preliminary round — participated. They had 15 seconds to answer each question and were eliminated once they answered two incorrectly.
First-place winner Alexander Conrad, a seventh-grader at Valley View Middle School in Edina, will move on to the national championship May 22 in Washington, D.C. That competition — to be hosted by Alex Trebek of "Jeopardy!" — will be aired on the National Geographic Channel on May 23.
"I just remember things," said Alexander, who won $100 for Friday's first-place finish. "I like to read atlases and look at maps."
In second place was Francis Winter, an eighth-grader at Willmar Middle School. Audrey Gorman, a seventh-grader at Our Lady of Grace School in Edina, took third place.
The students were quizzed on everything from locations of national monuments to National Geographic expeditions. One round had competitors classify states with the help of imagery from bee sponsor Google Earth. KARE 11's Jeremiah Jacobsen was the moderator.
This year marked Alexander's fourth year competing in the bee; last year, he placed third. "He's a very adventurous kid," said his mother, Christy Conrad. "He adores our world and all it has."
She said Alexander once asked Guinness World Records to feature him and his impressive collection of 190 maps and 30 atlases. "But Guinness said the Library of Congress had more," she said.
Alexander's social studies teacher, Cathryn Weller, said his classmates have supported him but he did all the preparation work. "I just provided the atlases," she said.
St. Cloud State University has hosted the National Geographic state competition for the past five years, with volunteer college students organizing the event, said Prof. David Wall.
All involved agree that the broad knowledge the students possess will serve our world well in the future.
"These are bright kids," said Kerri Westgard, coordinator of the competition. "Geography touches every aspect of our lives for understanding world events and putting them into context."
Candice Wheeler is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.