Say wins Worthington Middle School Geography Bee in tiebreaker
The questions varied significantly, but seemed to get progressively more difficult until round six, which focused on cultural geography.
WORTHINGTON — After the championship round slid into a tiebreaker, the Worthington Middle School Geography Bee on Tuesday ultimately came down to a single question about which country contains the Rhineland region and the Cologne Cathedral.
Seventh-grader Jameson Say surprised himself and earned the honors of the day by coming up with the correct answer: Germany.
“I came here with very low morale! I said to myself ‘I’ll be happy if I’m in the top five.’ But to be the champion!” he said, following his win.
Fifth-grader Enri Fuentes earned second place and sixth-grader Hyrum Bates took third, with both of them expected to be strong competitors in future bees, as grades five through eight are eligible.
While previous competitions had been part of the National Geographic GeoBee, the GeoBee was canceled in 2020-2021 due to COVID-19 and then permanently discontinued after 33 years of competition.
For that reason, Paula Wolyniec and Derek Schmitz, who organized, led and judged the bee, chose to reuse a set of questions from 2012.
Thirty-four students participated in the event, and all of them were included in the first seven rounds, each answering a different question based on the round’s theme. Then the scores were tallied, and the eight students with the highest scores went on to the final round, followed by the championship round and then the tiebreaker.
Round one focused on U.S. geography, asking questions such as “Which state has a longer border with Canada, Vermont or Minnesota?” and “Which state produces more cranberries, Wisconsin or Utah?” (The answers are Minnesota and Wisconsin, for those keeping track at home.)
The questions varied significantly, but seemed to get progressively more difficult until round six, which focused on cultural geography and did not list options students could choose from. Suddenly students were faced with the origins of Kabuki theater (Japan) and the country where Farsi is the official language (Iran).
Eight students made the final round: Say, Fuentes, and Bates, plus Negasi Belay, Saul Galvez-Mendoza, Diego Guillen, Austin Kinser and Cristian Miranda.
They each had to answer different questions about U.S. states, like where the Alamo, Boston and Kona are (Texas, Massachusetts and Hawaii). Kinser and Guillen were out of the competition after that stage, and then the students all had to answer the same questions using whiteboards. Belay and Galvez-Mendoza left at this stage, and when students had to answer questions using a map, Miranda followed, and then Bates.
Say and Fuentes were left to answer three more questions together in the champion round, using white boards, but came up so evenly matched the contest went into a tiebreaker, which Say won.
“I’m very happy with how it went. These students did well,” Wolyniec said. “It’s always one of the highlights of the year.
She said it was very unusual to have a tiebreaker in the championship round.
“This is definitely going to get me into geography more than ever,” Say said.
The other students who participated in the bee were: Adam Armstrong, Aron Barrera Galeano, Almy Chavez Lopez, Joel Chavez Vega, Tessa Crooks, Emily DeLeon, Gracie Dickman, Chernet Fantahun, Audrey Gaudian, Brian Gomez, Valeria Hernandez Guzman, Cameron Kinser, Benjamin Marquardt, Omar Morales Escalante, Marjorie Pineda, Kylie Platt, Madison Poe, Allison Rivera, Bria Steves, Thet Tay, Sydnie Van Briesen, Ava Varga, Marshell Vongxaya, Jacob Vyskocil and Katy Welch. Giovanni Guizar Cardenas could not attend the bee, and his place was taken by alternate Jenifer Lopez Lopez. Reymundo Cerda was the second alternate, but did not compete.