May 21, 2014 / 7:01 PM / in 3 years

Virginia middle-schooler wins National Geographic Bee

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Virginia middle-school student won the 2014 National Geographic Bee on Wednesday by identifying Equatorial Guinea as the country planning to build a new capital in the rain forest east of Bata.

Winner Akhil Rekulapelli, 13, of Ashburn, Virginia, beat out final-round rival Ameya Mujumdar, 11, of Tampa, Florida, who answered “Tanzania.”

He bested nine other young whizzes in history, landmarks, cultures and climates in the finals to win a $50,000 scholarship and a trip to the Galapagos Islands, among other prizes.

“Right now this is probably the biggest accomplishment I will achieve in probably 20 or 30 years,” Rekulapelli, who also holds a tae kwon do black belt and plays first clarinet in the school band, said after his win.

The eighth-grader emerged from a field of 54 contestants to win the two-day bee at the National Geographic Society, moderated by television journalist Soledad O‘Brien.

For the second-place finish, Mujumdar received a $25,000 scholarship. And Tuvya Bergson-Michelson, 13, of Hillsborough, California, won a $10,000 scholarship for finishing third.

With the other contestants eliminated, Mujumdar and Rekulapelli went head-to-head in a series of challenges.

Among them, both correctly answered “Argentina” to the question: “The discovery of a major shale oil deposit in the Vaca Muerta formation in 2010 has led to an expansion of oil drilling in the Nequen Province of what country?”

The 10 finalists are eligible to compete for a spot on a three-person U.S. team at the National Geographic World Championship in Stockholm, Sweden, next year.

For the first time in its 26 years, the National Geographic Bee was not hosted by “Jeopardy” game show host Alex Trebek, who sat in the audience.

Editing by Ian Simpson and Gunna Dickson

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