WASHINGTON (TIP): Passion for geography runs deep in Sathwik Karnik’s family. When he was about 6, his mother began challenging Sathwik and his older brother, Karthik, to her version of hide-and-seek – using an atlas. The boys would comb through the book, trying to be the first to find a city or landmark. The games paid off when Karthik, 15, made the finals of the National Geographic Bee in 2011 and 2012.
But it was 12-year-old Sathwik, of Plainville, Mass., who finished the job, calmly answering questions about obscure island chains, bodies of water, global trade and culture to win the 25th annual geography bee may 22. The clinching question? “Because Earth bulges at the equator, the point that is farthest from Earth’s center is the summit of a peak in Ecuador. Name this peak.” Sathwik nailed it: Chimborazo.
Runner-up Conrad Oberhaus, 13, of Lincolnshire, Ill., knew the answer, but Sathwik got all five questions correct in their one-on-one duel. Earlier, Conrad couldn’t name Baotou as the largest city in China’s Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, home to one of the world’s largest deposits of rare-earth elements. While Conrad didn’t stumble again, Sathwik never relinquished the lead.
Sathwik and his brother said the victory was a team effort. Ten participants made the finals, culled from a field of 54 state-level winners in Monday’s preliminary round. Sathwik won a $25,000 scholarship, a trip to the Galapagos Islands and a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society. The finals will be televised Thursday night on the National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo WILD. Conrad, the runner-up, won a $15,000 scholarship. Also represented in the finals were California, Michigan, Colorado, New Hampshire, Oregon and Wisconsin.