2008 Geography Bee

20th annual National Geographic Bee

by Liz Olson
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A sixth-grader at Lux Middle School in Lincoln, Nebraska, Akshay Rajagopal answered every question correctly to win the two-day 20th annual Geography Bee in May 2008.

By placing first, Akshay earned a $25,000 scholarship and a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society. Holding his oversized check, 11-year-old Rajagopal said of the questions, "Some of them were hard but others were OK. I think I was just lucky." But luck had nothing to do with knowing what South American country has the third-largest city named Cochabamba (Bolivia) and the country where Makossa is a popular type of music (Cameroon).

Akshay's parents said he has been interested in geography since the age of five, and for several months before the competition he studied geography DVDs and textbooks to help prepare for the contest. In addition to geography, Akshay enjoys collecting coins.

The National Geographic Bee was open to 55 contestants: one from each state, plus one apiece from Washington, D.C.; Pacific Territories; Puerto Rico; the Virgin Islands; and U.S. Department of Defense schools. The final round, for the top ten finalists, was moderated by Alex Trebek, host of the popular game show Jeopardy! It was broadcast live on the National Geographic Channel.

Hunter Bledsoe, 13, a student at Hewitt Trussville Middle School, Trussville, Alabama, placed second and received a $15,000 college scholarship. Third place and a $10,000 college scholarship went to William Lee, a 13-year-old student at Joyce Middle School in Woburn, Massachusetts.

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The deadliest earthquake on record killed 830,000 people in Shaanxi, China.

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