Eighth grade social studies teachers Grant Watts and Steve Pfrank guided contestants through rivers, over mountains and across vast deserts.
More than 900 students participated in North Clay Middle School Geography Bee, sponsored by National Geographic Society. After the field had been narrowed to 10, the final round of competition was Monday. Only four survived.
"Lake of the Woods is shared by Manitoba and Ontario, Canada and which of the United States?," Watts asked Alyssa Driscoll, seventh grader.
"New York," she answered.
"No. Minnesota," he said.
Pfrank announced Driscoll previously answered wrong to the least amount of questions, so her seat as one of the two finalists was already secured. Now it was between three students.
"The San Andres Mountains run parallel with the Rio Grande River as it flows through which state?'" Watts asked.
"Texas," Zach Sanabria answered.
"No. New Mexico," Watts said. He asked the next finalist, "Beirut, Tripoli and Tel Aviv all lie on the coast of which body of water?"
Paige Stewart answered her question, "The Gulf of Mexico."
"No, it's the Mediterranean Sea," said Watts. Then he looked at the final contestant, Hunter Reberger. "The meridian running through Greenwich, England is known by what name?," he asked.
"The International Date Line." Reberger said.
No. It's the Prime Meridian," Watts said.
The remaining three contestants, all eighth graders, had to go through another tie breaker. Stewart was victorious over the boys and the championship round was between the two girls.
Watts said he would ask both of them the same three questions at the same time. They were to write their answers down within 15 seconds, show their answers and give them out loud.
First question: In July 2002, the U.S. congress voted to authorize Yucca Mountain as a permanent repository for 77,000 tons of nuclear waste. Yucca Mountain is located in which state? Driscoll: New Mexico. Stewart: Alaska. Watts: No. Nevada.
Second question: In May 2002, an invasive species of predatory fish was found in a pond about 10 miles from the Chesapeake Bay, alarming scientists and wildlife managers in which state? Driscoll and Stewart: Massachusetts. Watts: No. Maryland.
Third question: The currencies of Mexico and Argentina have the same name but different values. Name the currency. Driscoll: The peso. Stewart: No answer. Watts: The peso.
Driscoll will take a 60-minute qualifying test this week consisting of 70 multiple-choice questions. If she succeeds, she will be one of 100 students to advance to the state Geography Bee this spring in Indianapolis. Watts said if she scores around 70 percent, she ought to feel fairly comfortable about making it to the state finals.
"I didn't study at all. But I read all the time. It's just my thing. It's what I do," said Driscoll.
"Alyssa's love of reading inspired her to learn more about the world. It inspired her to compete," Beth Meuser, NCMS media specialist, said. She said the competition was video taped in the library and will be time-delayed broadcast to the entire school next Monday.
The 10 finalists in the NCMS Geography Bee were: Devin Ahern (sixth grade), Alyssa Driscoll, Alec Manke (seventh grade), Josh Conway, Larry Parvin, Hunter Reberger, Paige Stewart, Tabitha Landrum, Zach Sanabria and Johanna Moore (eighth grade).