It was time to get a new world map, 14-year-old Nick Harrington and his family decided, after he won his school geography bee and started preparing for the state competition.
His old one, which featured the Soviet Union, was a bit outdated.
“I didn’t really study for my school bee,” said Nick, an eighth-grader at Lakeside Middle School in Seattle. “But once I won that, I realized, maybe I should study.”
He looked at his new map from time to time and read geography books, adding to a foundation of geography knowledge he’s gained from an interest in history and regularly reading the news.
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On Friday, that work paid off as Nick won the state competition at Pacific Lutheran University in Parkland, securing his spot at the national bee in Washington, D.C.
“I don’t think I’ve improved that much from last year, so a lot of it is luck, I feel,” Nick said.
He doesn’t remember all the details, but knows it was a question about three obscure rivers in southwestern Africa that knocked him out of his school bee last year.
The winning question at the state bee Friday was: “Which Belgian city on the river Scheldt is a major center for cutting diamonds?”
Nick correctly answered: “Antwerp.”
“It was really sort of surreal,” he said. “I never really expected to win. I didn’t even expect to make it to the final round, so I was really shocked when I won.”
There was one question that tripped him up, he said. He guessed the Asiatic lion lived in Thailand.
“The correct answer was India,” he said in an interview with The News Tribune on Sunday.
But it takes two incorrect answers to be eliminated from the final round, and Nick got the rest right.
“We couldn’t believe it,” dad Jay Harrington said. “Round after round he survived.”
Dad, mom Shi Harrington, and possibly Nick’s grandparents will join him at the National Geographic Bee, May 11-13.
“I’m taking a laid-back approach,” Nick said. “I’ll study a lot for it, but if I get eliminated quickly, which is a likely scenario, I won’t be too upset or let down.”
The first runner-up Friday was fourth-grader Jacob Krell from Peace Lutheran School in Bremerton, and the second runner-up was seventh-grader Evan Scavotto from Kalles Junior High School in Puyallup. The state competition featured 106 students, ages 10 to 14.