SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Seventh grader Brandon Bolger came out on top in today's 2019 Memorial Middle School National Geographic Bee after taking part in the longest ever Geo Bee final in the school's history. The competition, which is the third step in the quest to go to Washington D.C. to take part in the National Geographic Bee Finals, is organized and conducted by Memorial Middle School History, World Geography and Public Speaking teacher, Jackie Martinez. Eighth grader Robert Sands was the runner up while seventh grader Corey Miller was the third place finisher.
Bolger competed in a field of 10 finalists, which included sixth graders Andrew Nakhla and Samuel Gebraeil, seventh graders Kyle Chigas, Andrew Capran and Miller and eighth graders Jacob Phelps, Sands, Alexis Alejandrino and Justin Seifin. Capran won the 2018 Memorial Middle School Geography Bee. Sands was the runner up in last year's geography bee as well. Miller, Alejandrino and Phelps were also making their second appearance as finalists in the bee with Alejandrino being the only female to make in to the finalist round this year. Lauren Kim was a third place finisher in last year's final.
The finalists were chosen after competing in two previous rounds. First up was an online geography test where the 25 highest scores moved on. The online test was open to the entire sixth, seventh and eighth grade student body. From there, students took part in an after school oral response round conducted by Martinez. Nakhla earned the last spot in the finals after taking part in a tie-breaker round which included seventh graders Marco Hatzistefanis and Mateo Rivera along with eighth graders Melissa Wehrle, Matthew Esposito and Sam Nell. All six students were knotted in a tie following the after school round.
The National Geographic Bee is sponsored by the National Geographic Society. The non-profit organization began the extremely popular geography competition in 1989 after a mounting concern over the lack of geography knowledge in American students. Since the inaugural geography bee, more than 1,000 middle schoolers have participated in the national championships in Washington D.C. The organization has also awarded over $1.5 million in college scholarship money to participants.
By the sixth round in Friday's competition, the field of 10 was narrowed to Bolger, Miller and Sands. All three moved into the seventh ground before Miller missed his question making him the third place finisher. Bolger and Sands needed a single elimination tie-breaker round after the pair both answered one of the three written response questions correctly. It took five tie-breaker questions before Bolger was crowned the 2019 Memorial Middle School National Geographic Bee champ.
Bolger is the fourth Memorial geography champ which includes Capran who won last year's competition and Dylan McCoy who won the school's first competition in 2014. Ryan Miller was the 2015 winner. The Memorial competition had a two year layoff before coming back in 2018.