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Towns is tops at WMS geography bee

Diego Ramos (from left, second place overall), Cody Vorasane (third place) and Anthony Towns (champion) beam at the conclusion of Wednesday’s Geography Bee at Worthington Middle School. The seventh-grade Towns was the victor in the 30-student competition. (Submitted photo by Paula Wolyniec)1 / 2
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WORTHINGTON — Seventh-grader Anthony Towns emerged the victor at the annual Worthington Middle School geography bee Wednesday.

A Worthington tradition that’s at least a quarter-century old, the 2018 bee tested the geographic knowledge of 30 select WMS fifth- through eighth-graders who qualified for the contest via a preliminary school-wide quiz.

The participants exercised their gray matter in dredging up names of continents, states and countries in their quest to win this year’s geography master title.

“The geography bee inspires students to be curious and knowledgeable global citizens,” said Paula Wolyniec, co-organizer and proctor of the bee along with fellow WMS social studies teacher Sally Darling.

The two teachers posed questions to each student through seven preliminary rounds, putting the kids through their paces on an initially easier scale to a progressively more challenging one.

For instance, the first round let students choose from three options in response to which U.S. states bordered others, and the second round offered a choice of two U.S. states with clues regarding precipitation rates, population levels, weather patterns and more.

The competition tightened, however, when successive rounds demanded that contestants volunteer their own answers, pulling names of continents or random countries from thin air.

The 15 allotted seconds (per answer) that had seemed unnecessary earlier suddenly seemed like no time at all, despite specific references to industry, topography, exports, cultural traditions, indigenous animals and agricultural products.

“I’ve been amazed at how well you’ve all done,” praised Wolyniec before announcing the names of the seven students who either had perfect scores through the seven preliminary rounds or missed only one question.

Advancing to the final competition were eighth-graders Cody Vorasane and Brooke Nordseth, seventh-graders Towns, Diego Ramos and Randy Garcia, and sixth-graders Jacari Swinea and Emanuel Saravia.

All seven students clinched their first two responses, having no trouble with questions regarding U.S. capitals or a U.S. mountain range.

Things got trickier thereafter, with first Swinea and then Saravia bowing out. Nordseth and Garcia were eliminated simultaneously.

Towns, with only one error in the final queries, automatically advanced to the championship round. Ramos and Vorasane duked it out in a tiebreaker in their bid to challenge Towns, with Ramos prevailing.

Ramos and Towns were quizzed on details involving national parks and wildlife unique to certain continents, but it was Towns who eventually nailed the answer that made him the champion.

The son of Alex Towns and Maria Figueroa of Worthington, Towns later said he was nervous throughout the entirety of his first geography bee.

“During the championship round, I thought every second I was going to get out,” he revealed while wearing his champion medal.

Towns said he studied in the weeks leading up to the bee, and that he likes reading books — particularly those in the fantasy genre — and looking at maps.

“History is my favorite subject,” he shared.

Sixth-graders Saravia and Swinea were the youngest contestants to progress to the final round; last year as a fifth-grader, Saravia was the bee’s first runner-up.

“I like geography, and I want to travel some places when I’m older, like to Europe and Asia,” said Saravia.

Saravia hopes to return next year to challenge 2018 champ Towns — but Towns intends to be ready for the competition.

“I’m going to study a lot more,” Towns grinned.

Towns will take an online test in January to determine if he can be one of the 100 qualifiers for the state geography bee. The winner of the state bee will advance to the national geography bee in Washington, D.C.