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Geography bee lands at DU for state championships

Pranit Nanda cruised to victory March 30 at the National Geographic Bee Colorado state championship. Photo: Chase Squires

The Strait of Hormuz offered smooth sailing for Pranit Nanda as the sixth-grader cruised to victory March 30 at the National Geographic Bee Colorado state championship, hosted annually by the DU geography department.

Pranit, who came in second last year, went all the way in 2012 on a daily regimen of study and practice. After a grueling morning that tested the knowledge of 100 top Colorado geography students in grades four through eight, he landed back in the finals with nine other geography-minded competitors.

As more than 200 parents, siblings and friends looked on, the contestants took round after round of oral questions: “Which city is located along the Schuylkill River?” (Philadelphia); “Name the strait that separates the Seward Peninsula in North America from the Chukotka Peninsula in Asia” (Bering); “Lumbering is one of the main economic activities in Coeur D’Alene, located in what Western state?” (Idaho).

One by one, contestants dropped out, victim of the double elimination format.

Until … there were two.

Pranit, a Centennial resident who attends Aurora Quest K-8 school, squared off against eighth-grader Ken Kubik, from Berthoud’s Turner Middle School, for a best-of-three final round.

The questions were tough. Of the three, Pranit knew only one: “What body of water connects the Gulf of Oman with the Persian Gulf?”

The Strait of Hormuz.

It was good enough for a win.

Neither student got the other two questions in the final: “Name the Baltic country that replaced the kroon with the euro in early 2011, becoming the most recent country to join the Euro zone” (Estonia); and “What landlocked African country harvests timber and floats it down the Ubangi River to transportation facilities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo?” (Central African Republic).

Pranit’s mother, Maya Krishnan, and father, Nanda Dorairaj, were on hand for the victory, snapping photos and cheering. Krishnan said her son has been fascinated not only with geography, but with the National Geographic Bee, ever since he saw it on television at a young age.

Pranit said the victory didn’t come easy. But being in the finals last year helped him relax on the stage with the other contenders. Then there was the studying.

“I study for at least a half hour a day. I just look at an atlas; I look for places that are interesting,” he said. “You have to study a lot, and you have to be interested. It’s hard work.”

Pranit and his family are now off to Washington, D.C., a city he has long wanted to visit. There, he’ll compete May 22–24 against other state champions for the grand prize of $25,000.

Ken finished second, and Liam Douglas, a seventh-grader from Euclid Middle School in Littleton, finished third.







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