By Bera Dunau Staff Writer
---- — Eighth grader Tom Knight has won the Cooperstown Middle School Geography Bee for the second year in a row.
“It felt like something that was really good to finally accomplish,” said Knight, on his win. “There’s sort of more pressure on you being a repeat winner.”
In addition to winning the Cooperstown Middle School Geography Bee twice, Knight won the Cooperstown Elementary School Geography Bee two years in a row prior to his wins in middle school.
“It’s actually a fourpeat,” said Knight.
The Cooperstown Middle School Geography Bee involves questions about physical geography, as well as questions on cities and capitals. While most of the questions focus on the United States, some are also internationally based.
To qualify to participate this year Knight, along with the rest of his eighth grade class, had to take a test, the top five finishers of which would compete for the geography bee title against the top five finishers from seventh grade.
Knight almost didn’t make it to this final stage however, as he tied for the last two spots with four other students, after all four of them got 23 answers right on the 25 question test.
In order to decide these final two spots, a four-question geography bee was held. Knight got all four of these questions right, while the next best performer, Victoria Sacchi, got two, qualifying them both for the final competition.
Participants in the final competition had to write their answers down on a white board, and the contest was held in the Cooperstown Middle/High School auditorium in front of the entire seventh and eighth grade classes. Participants were allowed to get one question wrong, but if they got a second error, they were eliminated.
Knight got an error during the competition, after he was asked in what state on the pacific ocean the Chugach Mountain Range is located. Knight answered Washington State, but the Chugach Range is located in Alaska.
“I was pretty nervous when I missed my first question,” said Knight.
Knight managed to recover, however, making it to the final two.
Here he faced off against his friend and classmate, Pierce Snyder, who was the runner up in last year’s geography bee.
In this portion of the competition, both contestants errors were wiped. Knight and Snyder were then asked three questions, with the winner of the contest being the student who answered the greatest number correctly.
Both Knight and Snyder got the first two questions correct, so the judges decided to give them one that was more difficult. The question asked what country in Asia an indigenous people native to the Kunlun Mountains lived in.
Knight did not know the answer to the question, but he made an educated guess, and said China.
“I went with my gut and my instinct,” said Knight, saying that he believed China was a country big enough to hold many cultures.
Snyder answered Vietnam, but Knight’s answer was the correct one, and with that, Knight had his fourth geography bee title in four years.
“I thought everyone did a really good job,” said Knight, speaking of his fellow finalists in the geography bee, saying the competition was strong.
Knight will now be taking another geography test. If his results are among the 100 best scores of elementary and middle school geography bee champions in New York, and better than those of this year’s Cooperstown Elementary School Geography Bee Champion, Knight will be able to compete in this year’s New York National Geographic Bee.
Knight has qualified and competed in the state bee for the last three years. When he first qualified, he was the only fifth grader in the competition.
“The questions in a regional level are such a jump up,” said Knight, saying that they cover United States geography, global geography, cultural geography and how to read maps.
At the state competition, Knight said that competitors are given eight questions in the preliminary round.
“Most of the time you have to get eight out of eight to qualify for the final round,” said Knight. “If you don’t get eight out of eight right you’re done.”
Knight said that in his three previous performances he has gotten seven out of eight right, five out of eight right and six out of eight right.
Knight also said that the state bee always features 10 finalists on stage for the finals.
“One thing I would really want to do is get on the stage for finals,” said Knight, when asked about his goals for this year’s state bee, should he qualify again.
The winner of the state bee gets $100 and the opportunity to compete in the national finals representing New York.
While Knight says that qualifying for nationals would be a great experience, he said that the kids who make it generally study three to four hours a day, while he generally devotes 45 minutes a day to practicing for competitions.
“I would say that’s sort of up to Tommy,” said Eric Knight, Knight’s father, who Knight describes as his main study partner, when asked if Knight was doing any special preparation for his upcoming geography test and possible fourth trip to the state competition.
Knight said that his son likes to learn in a social atmosphere, and picks up geography facts through contextual learning, rather than rote memorization.
“I think it’s pretty impressive,” said Susie Knight, Knight’s mother, when asked about her son’s performances in geography bees. “Especially when he knows so many things that I have no clue about.”
In addition to competing in geography bee, Knight participates in other academic sports.
Knight got fourth place in both this year’s and last year’s Cooperstown Middle School Scripps Spelling Bee, and is a member of the middle school quiz team.
“That’s going to be something that I’ll really enjoy,” said Knight, when asked about his plans to compete next year on the Cooperstown High School Quiz Team.
Knight plays non-academic sports as well, participating in basketball, track and soccer. He also cycles competitively.