Pranay Varada of Texas Wins 2017 National Geographic Bee and $50,000 College Scholarship: Students from Wisconsin and New Jersey Take Second and Third Place

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.

The final round of the Bee will be aired on the National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo WILD at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Friday, May 19. It will also be aired on public television stations; check local television listings for dates and times.

Almost 3 million students in 10,000 schools in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. Atlantic and Pacific territories and Department of Defense Dependents Schools took part in the 2017 National Geographic Bee.

The National Geographic Society developed the National Geographic Bee in 1989 in response to concern about the lack of geographic knowledge among young people in the United States. Everyone can test their geography knowledge with the exciting Geo Bee Quiz, an online geography quiz at, which poses 10 new questions a day.


MEDIA NOTE: Photos, videos and other assets from the competition are available via Dropbox (required caption and credit info enclosed).


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