State Geography Bee competitors know where it's at

  • Article by: CANDICE WHEELER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 6, 2013 - 12:10 AM

Edina seventh-grader will head to Washington, D.C., next month to compete in the national finals.

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Friday, 100 bright students from across Minnesota competed in the state-level competition of the 25th annual National Geographic Bee at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud. The finals were held in Ritsche Auditorium, where 10 finalists faced off. Alexander Conrad, a seventh-grader at Valley View Middle school in Edina, was the winner after after scoring a flawless round. He got a big hug from his mom, Christy Conrad, after the award ceremony.

Photo: RICHARD SENNOTT ,

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– 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.”

  • test your geography chops

    Think you’re good at geography? See how you do on these three questions, asked during the championship round at Friday’s state Geography Bee.

    1. Niagara-on-the-Lake, which played a central role in the War of 1812, is located in which Canadian province?

    2. Which Russian city, home to the Hermitage Museum, lies on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland?

    3. One of the largest coal importers in the world is an Asian constitutional monarchy made up of many islands. Name this country.

    (Answers: 1. Ontario. 2. St. Petersburg. 3. Japan)

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