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8th-Grader From Texas Wins 2019 National Geographic Bee


The National Geographic GeoBee crowned its winner yesterday. But we're not just talking about what-is-the-highest-mountain-peak questions here.


Host Mo Rocca questioned contestants on remote natural landmarks, climate change and geopolitics, winnowing down the pool of contestants to just two finalists.

MARTIN: And that is when the sudden-death questions kicked in. You ready, Steve?

INSKEEP: Sudden death...


INSKEEP: That sounds kind of ominous, but OK. Go.


MO ROCCA: The Dahlak Archipelago located near the city of Massawa lies in what sea?

In 2018, a small zebra population was reintroduced to Kitulo National Park. This park can be found in what African country?

More than one-third of Norway's northernmost county is located on what plateau?

MARTIN: Steve, what plateau?

INSKEEP: Are you kidding me?

MARTIN: (Laughter).

INSKEEP: I'm not even able to follow that question.

MARTIN: Right. Was that just one question, actually?

INSKEEP: I got lost at the zebra population. Yeah.

MARTIN: OK, so Texas eighth-grader Nihar Janga knew the answer.


NIHAR JANGA: The Finnmark plateau.

MARTIN: Now, Nihar is not new to the competitive stage. He was a co-champion of the 89th Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2016 and a GeoBee finalist in 2018.

INSKEEP: So Nihar is no stranger to winning, but it's still pretty exciting to win. And video of this event shows him falling to the ground when his final answer is deemed correct, so we got him on the phone to talk about that.

JANGA: My heart was, like, pounding really hard. Like, I could feel it. I actually was going to put what the other person put first, so I didn't know if I accidentally second-doubted myself. And it was just, like, really horrifying but turned out to be good.

MARTIN: Yeah, really good - a lot of hard work, though, went into preparing for this.

JANGA: It's not just looking at atlases, like many people know. It's looking at how places in those atlases affect our world today and how problems in those places affect us and how we can fix them individually and as humans of the world.

INSKEEP: Nihar has a bit more wisdom here.

JANGA: In every stage of the competition, I got one question wrong. People should know that you shouldn't give up after getting that one question wrong no matter how, like, disappointing or how close to the other person winning is because you might just get that one chance of winning. And that's what happened.

INSKEEP: Remember; the Finnmark plateau. He takes home a $25,000 scholarship prize for the big win. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.