In the end, it all came down to knowledge of the global economy.
Typical talk among middle school kids, right?
Well, maybe – if you’re Arjun Kumar, the 13-year-old Issaquah boy who beat 99 other brainiacs gathered at Pacific Lutheran University on Friday.
They were vying to become the state’s new Geographic Bee winner.
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The winning question in the 10-contestant final round: In 2010, which Asian country lost its ranking as the world’s second-largest economy in terms of gross domestic product when it was surpassed by China?
Arjun beat second-place finisher Kyler Schubkegel, a 14-year-old home-schooler from Mount Vernon, with the correct answer.
He was especially pleased that he won on a question about Japan, the native country of his mom, Rika.
“I just like things about the world,” Arjun answered, explaining how he knew answers to questions such as:
Which state contains the cities of Gary and South Bend? (Indiana.) And: What’s the location of Sugarloaf Mountain? (Near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.)
The event drew 100 students from Olympia, Tacoma and around the state to the college campus in Parkland.
Arjun wins $100, a set of DVDs from sponsor National Geographic Society and a trip to Washington, D.C., for the national finals, scheduled for May 24-25.
If he takes first at nationals, he’ll join five previous Evergreen State winners who have gone on to win at the national level.
Is it something in the water here? Not really, say the top finishers. They attribute their winning ways to natural curiosity and focus on a subject that interests them.
Arjun said he spent some time online, but mostly he studied atlases.
Second-place finisher Kyler – who takes home the DVD set and $75 – said he gathers his geographical knowledge primarily from reading.
“I checked out books from the Mount Vernon city library,” he said. “I also have about seven or eight atlases at home. My family likes to tease me about being a walking map.”
It’s true, says his dad, Kevin.
“I can ask him a street name in our town, and he knows where it is,” Kevin said.
Kyler’s mom, Beth, who oversees his home schooling, said her son teaches himself geography.
“It’s been a passion of his since he was young,” she said.
Arjun’s dad, Arun, said his son has also been fascinated by maps since he was very young. But as he grew, Arjun started getting interested in typical boyhood topics such as Star Wars and Harry Potter.
“He always likes to get deep into one subject,” his dad said.
It was Arjun’s dad who suggested he delve into something more academic. With his love of maps, geography was a natural choice.
Arjun said he’s looking forward to visiting the Smithsonian in Washington.
“That was one of my motivations,” he said.
Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635 firstname.lastname@example.org