Kirkland Boy Comes In 4Th In National Geography Bee -- Youngest Of 10 Finalists Also Wins Chance At Retry
Seattle Times East Bureau
Kirkland sixth-grader Alex Kerchner, state winner of the National Geography Bee, came in fourth yesterday in the national geography competition in Washington, D.C.
"He's an adorable kid - he'll be back, and he'll probably win," said National Geographic Society spokeswoman Ellen Siskind.
Alex, 11, was the youngest of 10 finalists in the competition, which is open to fourth- through eighth-graders. The winner was 12-year-old Seyi Fayanju, New Jersey's state champ, who received a $25,000 college scholarship.
The competition was moderated by "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek and taped to be televised on cable's TBS and Public Broadcasting Service stations. It is sponsored by the National Geographic Society.
Students at Benjamin Franklin Elementary, Alex's school, have been keeping tabs on their classmate's progress.
"He's incredible," said Kim Ralph, who was Alex's fifth-grade teacher last year. "He knows not just placement but government, people, languages - he's got an incredible scope of knowledge.
"In my room last year, when kids had geography questions, I sent them to Alex."
To make it to the state level, Alex had to win top honors in the competition sponsored by his school. Alex was already a veteran of the circuit - he's won his school's contest and advanced to the state finals three years in a row.
In April, he became the state winner in a competition at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, becoming one of 57 winners to receive an all-expense-paid trip to the finals.
On Tuesday morning, he became one of the 10 finalists competing for $50,000 in scholarship money. As a finalist, he'll receive $500 from National Geographic and will be eligible to compete again next year.
National Geographic began the National Geography Bee in 1989 in response to concern over the lack of geographic knowledge among youngsters in the United States. In 1992, Lawson Fite of Vancouver, Wash., took first place.
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