WASHINGTON, DC (TIP): Akhil Rekulapelli, a 13 year-old eighth grader from northern Virginia’s Loudoun County, is the winner of the 2014 National Geographic Bee. Rekulapelli emerged as the victor of the Bee’s 26th annual iteration on Wednesday, May 21, beating out competitors from each state and territory in the US. His win as the national Geographic Bee champion continues a streak of Bee dominance displayed by Indian American students, who have also regularly topped the Scripps National Spelling Bee in recent years, too.
Last year, Indian-origin 12 year-old Sathwik Karnik, of Massachusetts, won the National Geographic Bee. Of the top 10 competitors in this year’s Geographic Bee, exactly half were Indian, including Rekulapelli. The others were Coloradao’s Pranit Nanda, Florida’s Ameya Mujumdar, South Carolina’s Krish Patel, and Wisconsin’s Asha Jain. All, like Rekulapelli, are in eighth grade except for Mujumdar, who is in fifth grade.
All are also 14 except Mujumdar, who is 11. Despite being the youngest, Mujumdar ended up placing second, losing to Rekulapelli at the very end. Rekulapelli stumped his competition by correctly answering a question about oil drilling in the Neuquén province of a major South American country (it’s Argentina, by the way). Now that he’s the US champion, Rekulapelli will represent the nation at the International Geographic Bee, which will take place in Monaco later this year.
Geographic Bee host Soledad O’Brien, alongside National Geographic Society President and CEO Gary E. Knell, presented Rekulapelli with a check for $50,000 to be used towards a college scholarship. According to National Geographic, Rekulapelli is already looking to attend either Stanford, or his state’s University of Virginia.
Additionally, Rekulapelli has won a trip to the Galapagos Islands, which he will take with National Geographic’s Lindblad Expeditions. Mujumdar walked away with $25,000 for his second-place performance. The third place winner, Tuvya Bergson- Michelson of California, received $10,000.