SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Eighth grader Andrew Capran won the 2020 Memorial Middle School National Geographic Bee for the second time in three years on Wednesday. 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. Seventh grader Shyami Craig was the runner up while eighth grader Kyle Chigas was the third place finisher.
Capran competed in a field of 10 finalists that included Craig and Chigas along with seventh graders Andrew Nakhla and John Wehrle and eighth graders Marco Hatzistefanis, Fiona Lowenfels, Brandon Bolger, Corey Miller and Tyler Quesnel. Bolger was the 2019 Memorial Middle School Nat Geo champ while Miller was making his third appearance in the bee. Miller was the third place finisher last year. Chigas and Nakhla both participated in last year's geography bee as well. Capran competed in three competitions too winning his first at a sixth grader.
The final 10 contestants began their quest by completing a Google form generated test that included 21 questions. The initial round was open to all Memorial sixth, seventh and eighth grade students. This year saw the largest number of participants with 313 students completing the test. The top 29 students were invited to compete in an after school round. Seventeen elected to participate. The final 10 competitors were chosen based on their performance in 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.
After Chigas was deemed the third place finisher, Capran and Craig competed in the championship round. The championship round was comprised of three questions. Both teens had to write down their answers to each question. Capran answered all three questions correctly to Craig's one, making him this year's champion.
2020 marks the fifth year Memorial has participated in the National Geographic Bee. Dylan McCoy won the school's first-ever competition in 2014. Ryan Miller won in 2015. Memorial had a two-year layoff from the competition before returning in 2018. Capran also won in 2018 and Bolger was last year's winner.
Capran will now move on to the next step in the quest to go to D.C. He will have to complete an online qualifying test. The top 100 ranked scores in each state are then invited to compete in the national championships. Nihar Janga was the 2019 National Geographic Bee champion. Janga is from Austin, Texas.