Pranay Varada of Irving, Texas, a 14-year-old at DeWitt Perry Middle School, took top honors at the 29th annual National Geographic Bee held today at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C. In addition to earning the title of National Geographic Bee champion, Pranay received a $50,000 college scholarship and a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society. He will also travel (along with one parent or guardian), all expenses paid, on a Lindblad expedition to the Galápagos Islands aboard the new National Geographic Endeavour ll. Travel for the trip is provided by Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic. Second- and third-place finishers will receive $25,000 and $10,000 college scholarships, respectively.
The second-place winner and recipient of a $25,000 college scholarship was 14-year-old Thomas Wright of Mequon, Wisconsin, an eighth-grader at University School of Milwaukee. Third place and a $10,000 college scholarship went to Veda Bhattaram of Pine Brook, New Jersey, a 13-year-old seventh-grader at Robert R. Lazar Middle School.
During an intense six-question tiebreaker round to determine the champion, Thomas took the lead only to be challenged by Pranay. Each Bee contestant is given one opportunity to challenge the answer to be determined by the judges. The question was “Mu Gia Pass, a strategic pass and a key point of entry to the Ho Chi Minh Trail, lies in what mountain range?” The judges decided to accept both answers: Annam and Annamite.
The sixth and final question, which clinched the win for Pranay, was: “What large mountain system that stretches more than 1,200 miles separates the Taklimakan Desert from the Tibetan Plateau?” Answer: “Kunlun Mountains”
Fifty-four state and territory winners took part in the preliminary rounds of the 2017 National Geographic Bee on Monday, May 15. The top 10 finishers in the preliminary rounds met in this morning’s final round, which was moderated by humorist, journalist and actor Mo Rocca. The seven other finalists, who each won $500, were Nicholas Monahan of McCall, Idaho; Anish Susarla of Leesburg, Virginia; Lucas Eggers of Rochester, Minnesota; Rohan Kanchana of Hockessin, Delaware; Max Garon of the District of Columbia; Ahilan Eraniyan of San Ramon, California; and Abhinav Govindaraju of Bedford, New Hampshire.