Idaho youngster, 14, knows his orography, wins geography quiz

May 24, 1991|By Knight-Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON -- A 14-year-old Idaho farm boy won the 1991 National Geography Bee yesterday, correctly naming the land form most commonly associated with orographic precipitation.

Mountains. Naturally.

David Stillman of Nezperce, Idaho, also identified the capital of Turkey, the flag of China and the South American homeland of the Yanomami to beat nine other boys for the first prize, a $25,000 college scholarship.

The 57 fifth- through eighth-graders who competed in the opening round Wednesday included four girls. About 5 million students had competed in state competitions.

Alex Trebek, host of the television program "Jeopardy!", was moderator. Mr. Trebek's involvement began after he saw a poll highlighting Americans' poor geography skills.

"I wanted to do my part to turn things around," he said.

During the finals, Mr. Trebek drew a mild rebuke from Carlos De La Fuente, a sixth-grader from Chandler, Ariz. Mr. Trebek pronounced Carlos with Spanish inflection while asking the 11-year-old to name the capital of Syria.

"Damascus," said Carlos, "and you don't need to get really Mexican. It's just Carlos."

Each boy had 15 seconds to answer and was eliminated after two misses.

Tom Barringer, an 11-year-old from Delta, Ohio, didn't know that the Yanomami live in Brazil and Venezuela; Liam Burnell, 13, of Falmouth, Maine, missed the Chinese philosophy adopted in the seventh century by Japan (Confucianism); while Rob Leitner, 14, of Carlisle, Pa., didn't know scientists' term for soil layers (horizons).

Joe Turner, 14, of Bernie, Mo.; Stephen Gent, 14, of Gulfport, Miss.; Danny Dudis, 14, of Pocomoke City, Md.; and Matthew Coldiron, 14, of Somerset, Ky., were eliminated next, followed by Eliot Brenner, 13, of Richmond, Va., who won a $10,000 scholarship for finishing third.

That left Carlos and David to answer three final questions.

Both knew that the Soviet port of Odessa was in the Ukraine and that the Faroe Islands belong to Denmark. But on the final question, Carlos answered not mountains but tropical rain forest.

Carlos won $15,000 and said he would find his way back next year.

David, the pride of Nezperce, a town of 500, said he had put in about a half-hour of study a day.

Surveys indicating widespread ignorance of world geography prompted National Geographic to start the geography bee three years ago.

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