Magazine Feature

Bee smart Alden Savoca

Where in the world is Alden Savoca?

It probably doesn’t matter, because no matter where the 14-year-old De Beque resident travels, Savoca will probably know where he is, where the nearest mountain ranges are, what the chief export is and what rivers, oceans, lakes, bays, seas and deserts are nearby.

Savoca is this year’s National Geographic geography bee Colorado state champion, beating out more than 100 other students in grades 4—8 for the title at the University of Denver on April 3.

In competition that built through the day, Savoca worked his way into a tension-packed final round with nine others. One by one, questions such as the location of Area 51 (Nevada), the so-called Land of the Morning Calm (South Korea) and the war that made Florence Nightingale famous (the Crimean War) culled contestants until there were only two: Savoca and 14-year-old Jared Lee of Colorado Springs.

Then came the fateful question: “Chiba and Nagoya, two of the largest ports in the world in terms of tonnage, are located in which country?”

Lee answered “China.” Savoca answered “Japan.”

The correct answer is, indeed, Japan.

The spoils of victory are significant. For his work, Savoca has earned a trip to the national finals in Washington, D.C., with the chance to compete for $25,000 in scholarships. In addition, DU provides the winner with a two-year scholarship.

For Savoca, this year was about redemption. He barely missed the finals last year and from that day on, he wanted to win it all.

“After we got home, I went to my room and started studying,” he says. “I would study atlases, maps and photos for about an hour and a half or two hours a day—every day. I had blank maps and I’d fill in information about the country, the name, the capital city, important information about each place.”

And he took the National Geographic online geography quiz every day. The 10-question quiz changes daily. Speed and accuracy count, and Savoca was a regular atop the leader board.

Joining him for the trip to Denver from the Western Slope was his mother, Lyda, and father, Dan, and four brothers and sisters, including younger brother Conner.

So while Savoca has “aged out” and won’t be allowed to return next year to defend his title, that doesn’t mean he won’t be back at DU cheering on someone else. Connor was in the top 10 in his regional competition this year.

And he’s studying.

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