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Geography is tougher than you think

Jessie Guttridge was the Estacada Junior High geography bee champion

When I heard about the junior high geography bee, I was curious. They were just junior high students - how hard could these questions be?

The answer: a lot harder than you would think.

At the urging of our editor, I took on the challenge of answering the questions that each junior higher was asked throughout the competition. While things started well, it didn't end that way.

After a preliminary qualifying test was given to every student, the top 25 scorers entered the finals, held on stage in front of the school.

In round one, Principal Dan Draper asked all of the students questions one by one. If a student missed two of the questions, he or she was eliminated. All of these questions were about U.S. geography and gave students two potential answers.

I would have survived round one, answering 34 out of 35 questions correctly. The question I missed was: 'The barrier islands of the Outer Banks lie of the coast of which Atlantic state - Maine or North Carolina?'

The answer was obviously North Carolina, duh. How could I forget?

But as I mentioned, I would have moved on to round number two.

The same double-elimination process was maintained through round four, when only two students remained. Unfortunately my run in the junior high geography bee would have lasted just 18 questions into round two.

(Just so you know. I wasn't actually on stage with the students. I took the challenge after the fact.)

Just for fun, I still attempted to complete all 35 questions in all seven rounds to see how I matched up. That endeavor was met with mixed results.

My scores finished as follows: round two (U.S. geographic comparisons), 31 correct answers; round three (U.S. physical geography), 32 correct answers; round four (continents), 22 correct answers; round five (world geography), 27 correct answers; round six (cultural geography), 15 correct answers and round seven (odd item out), 29 correct answers.

As mentioned above, the field was narrowed down to the final two by round four, so rounds five through seven were skipped over as they fast-forwarded to the final round.

The championship round consisted of three questions, which Jessie Guttridge and Chantrelle Lenzi were required to answer. The winner was the student who answered the most correctly.

By the time it was all finished, Guttridge was declared the winner, having answered two of the three questions right, to Lenzi's one correct answer.

The three championship questions were:

• 'Barrier islands help shelter a nature reserve on Apalachicola Bay, an arm of what large gulf?'

• 'Name the Asian country at the eastern edge of the South China Sea that includes about 7,100 islands.'

• 'Timbuktu, a center of caravan trade for almost a thousand years, is located north of the Niger River in which landlocked country?'

The answers were the Gulf of Mexico, the Philippine Islands and Mali.

I got exactly zero of those three questions correct. So much for a college degree.

While the competition was surely a lot of fun, especially for the winner, Draper explained the educational value behind an emphasis on geography.

'It's good to help make the kids aware of the bigger world around them,' he said. 'So I think studying geography sets the context for some other things.'