Hours upon hours of studying paid off Wednesday for 14-year-old Caitlin Snaring, of Redmond, when she became the second girl ever to win...
WASHINGTON — Hours upon hours of studying paid off Wednesday for 14-year-old Caitlin Snaring, of Redmond, when she became the second girl ever to win the National Geographic Bee.
Snaring delivered a flawless performance from the first preliminary Tuesday round to this final question: “A city that was divided by a river of the same name was the imperial capital of Vietnam for more than a century. Name this city, which is still an important cultural center.”
The other finalist, Suneil Iyer, 12, of Olathe, Kansas, wrote Ho Chi Minh City. Snaring had Hue. A bell sounded when time expired and the competitors displayed their answers.
“One of you is correct,” quizmaster Alex Trebek, host of the game show “Jeopardy!,” told the competitors. The audience held its collective breath.
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“Suneil, you wrote down Ho Chi Minh City. And that is wrong,” Trebek said.
The crowd cheered.
“It’s been 16 years, but there’s a girl up here,” Trebek announced over the applause. He’s been hosting the finals since the Geographic Bee’s inception in 1989.
Three questions asked during the National Geographic Bee’s final round
1. Wapusk National Park, one of the world’s largest polar bear denning sites, encompasses a low-lying plain with continuous permafrost. This park is located along the Hudson Bay in which Canadian province?
2. Chulym, an endangered language with fewer than 20 fluent speakers, is still spoken along a river with the same name that flows through the Tomsk Oblast in what large country?
3. Until the late 1800s, people on a present-day island country practiced cannibalism using forks like the one seen here (large wooden fork presented). I want you to name this country whose largest island is Viti Levu.
In fact, it’s been 17 years since Susannah Batko-Yovino won it in 1990.
This year, of the 55 participants — representing the states, the District of Columbia, territories and Defense Department schools — only six were girls. Snaring was the only one to make it to the finals.
The eighth-grader receives a $25,000 scholarship.
National Geographic Society Board Chairman Gilbert Grosvenor admitted to rooting for Snaring, hoping to raise participation in the bee among girls.
“At that age, boys report an interest in geography much more often than girls,” said Ellen Siskind, a bee spokeswoman.
Siskind added that with most schools teaching social studies rather than geography, children aren’t being exposed to the subjects tested in the bee.
Snaring is primarily home-schooled by her mother, Traci, but she also takes several classes a week through Lake Washington School District’s Family Learning Center, a home-school-support program.
Snaring excels in many subjects and also sings, performs in school plays and enjoys pottery, said Linda Uno, a teacher at the learning center.
Snaring was determined to win the geography bee, Uno said.
“She probably studied four hours a day for the last year and a half,” Uno said. Snaring would carry around armfuls of geography books that were color-coded by subject using sticky notes, Uno said.
“You look at her study skills, and it’s just amazing,” Uno said. “She’s a learner.”
Snaring’s accomplishment wasn’t unusual just because of her gender. Unlike the Spelling Bee, Geographic Bee participants can miss questions and remain in competition.
Spots in the finals are awarded based on rank in the preliminary round. In the final round, participants can err once and dodge elimination.
But Snaring didn’t need a safety net. She got through the preliminaries and the finals without missing a question.
“It’s not unheard of, other winners have done it, but it’s very rare,” Siskind said.
Snaring is the fifth student from Washington to win the Bee. Washington has produced more national winners than any other state, according to the National Geographic Society.
Reporters swarmed Snaring once the competition ended, but her mom got in there first with a big hug.
“I am so proud,” she said.
Traci Snaring said she could tell by watching that her daughter knew the answers. But when Trebek asked the final question, she couldn’t see her daughter’s face.
“That was very tense for me,” she said.
Snaring, Iyer and third-place winner Mark Arildsen, 13, of Nashville, Tenn., all earned the chance to represent the United States in the international bee this summer.
For now, Snaring has more important concerns. She heads to New York to appear on NBC’s “Today Show,” then will take a much-needed break from studying.
“I’m going to party,” she said.
Staff reporter Rachel Tuinstra contributed to this story.