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WMS hosts Geography Bee (with video)

Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe Tanner Barrie (left) was champion and Kendrick Bickett runner-up in the National Geographic Bee Wednesday morning at Worthington Middle School.2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- Barrier islands help shelter a nature reserve on Apalachicola Bay, an arm of what large gulf?

If you can answer that question correctly, you just might be able to compete against Tanner Barrie, an eighth-grader at Worthington Middle School.

Barrie bested 29 other fifth- through eighth-grade students from WMS Wednesday morning to win the school's National Geographic Bee and earn a chance to qualify for the state contest. He will take a written test in January in his quest to reach state. Just three other students in the past eight years have advanced to the state round from WMS.

Taking the title was not an easy task for Barrie, who had to first make his way through a tie-breaker round just to reach the finals. He was among nine students who answered five questions correctly in the preliminary competition to reach the tie-breaker. Only five students could advance from the tie-breaker to round out the panel of 10 finalists.

Making it to the semi-finals with six or seven correct answers in the preliminary round were Jaeger Marco, Bryan Doeden, Rachel Koller, Katie Rogers and Kharmen Saysirisanh. Those advancing from the tie-breaker round were Barrie, Kendrick Bickett, Sam Martin, Taylor McCarvel and Xochitl Tobias.

Sitting in one long row and facing an audience of parents, grandparents, teachers and preliminary round participants, the finalists returned to the category of U.S. geography and provided oral answers for such questions as, "Thousands of tourists are attracted to Kona for the beaches and coffee in which state?" and "Factors Walk is a network of cobblestone paths that were once part of a historic cotton market in Savannah in which state?" The answers to those questions were Hawaii and Georgia.

Then, requesting each finalist take out dry-erase board and a marker, the moderator asked, "In August 2011, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake was felt along the East Coast of the United States. This earthquake's epicenter was located northwest of Richmond in which state?" Eight of the 10 finalists answered the question correctly by writing down Virginia.

In another round, students were handed a map of the United States, complete with circles of different sizes to mark population changes between 2000 and 2010, and were asked questions pertaining to the states.

Ultimately, the finalists returned to providing oral answers for questions. Here, one finalist was asked, "Ferries bring visitors from the city of St. Ignace to Mackinac Island in which state?" (Michigan) and "The Bitterroot Range is located on the border between Montana and which other state?" (Idaho). The round continued until two finalists remained -- Barrie and sixth-grader Kendrick Bickett.

Barrie, in his third National Geographic Bee at WMS, was poised for the championship round, as was Bickett, who competed in his first bee a year ago.

"I was a little nervous at the start, and then I gained more confidence at the end," said Bickett, who refers to geography as "one of my favorite subjects."

For the past month, Bickett said he visited to answer daily questions in the GeoBee Challenge. Barrie tried that a few times as well.

In the end, the two finalists faced off in a championship round of three questions. The finalist that answered the most questions correctly was deemed the winner.

The first question proved to determine the winner, as Barrie answered "Gulf of Mexico" for the question listed at the beginning of this article. Neither Barrie nor Bickett correctly answered the other two questions in the round.

Those questions and answers were: "Name the Asian country at the eastern edge of the South China Sea that includes about 7,100 islands" (Philippines); and "Timbuktu, a center of caravan trade for almost a thousand years, is located north of the Niger River in which landlocked country?" (Mali).

While this is Barrie's last year eligible to compete in the National Geographic Bee, Bickett is hoping he can return again in the next couple of years.

"I've got to pass the qualifying round -- you never know," he said.

Nearly 250 questions, spanning U.S. geography, geographic comparisons, U.S. physical geography, continents, world geography and cultural geography, were asked during the more than two-hour contest Wednesday morning.

Barrie is the son of Chad and Sara Henderson and Jason and Laura Barrie, all of Worthington, while Bickett is the son of Tim and Stacy Bickett, Worthington.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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