Over 40 percent of contestants at JV level are of Indian origin; Karan Menon, 18, tops Varsity Division
By Geeta Goindi
Arlington, VA, May 14, 2019 – Indian-American whiz kid Samvrit Rao has been crowned the national champion in the Junior Varsity Division of the International Geography Bee (IGB), US edition. All of 11 years old, Samvrit bested 99 students, 41 percent of Indian origin, to win the 2019 trophy.
Samvrit, a sixth grader at the Stone Hill Middle School in Ashburn, VA, holds the distinction of being the youngest champion to date in the junior varsity division. He was awarded a trophy and a scholarship to offset travel expenses for competing in the second IGB World Championships scheduled to be held in July 2020.
By his own admission he felt “ecstatic” upon being declared the winner of “a tough competition” which pitted him against some of the best and brightest middle and high school students. “Speed was the key to clinch the title”, he told us together, of course, with an in-depth knowledge of geography.
Samvrit practiced for the national championship online through the Protobowl application which features the pyramidal-style questions that progress from more obscure to familiar information. He also asked his parents – Dr. Vasudev and Shwetha Rao – to compete with him online which further prepared him for the grueling five-and-a-half hour event.
Ever so young, Samvrit is no stranger to accolades. In 2015, he placed in the Top Ten of the United States Geography Olympiad finals held in Louisville, Kentucky. Samvrit who was in second grade at the time was the youngest among the top ten; all other students were in fifth and sixth grades.
Samvrit loves to read particularly American author Rick Riordan’s works on Egyptian and Greek mythology. When he is not reading or studying, he learns Carnatic music and how to play the violin at school as music calms him down.
He has also developed a keen interest in science participating in the Science Olympiad and eCybermission competitions and hopes to be more actively involved in hands-on projects.
The IGB is a worldwide geography quiz for primary and secondary school students currently offered in five regions: Asia; Australia and New Zealand; Canada; Europe; and USA. The regional championships are held annually and the world championships biennially. The inaugural IGB world championships were held July 11-17, 2018, in Berlin, Germany and featured 117 students.
The US edition of the IGB, organized by International Academic Competitions, is split into four age-based divisions: Varsity; Junior Varsity, Middle School and Elementary. Students born before July 1, 2003 can compete in the Varsity Division; all younger students, regardless of grade, can compete at the Junior Varsity level.
It is noteworthy that Indian-American Karan Menon, 18, of New Jersey has topped the Varsity Division of the 2019 contest. Karan, a student at the J.P. Stevens High School in Edison, is also no stranger to awards and accolades. In 2015, he was crowned champion of the National Geographic Bee (now called the National Geographic GeoBee). For seven consecutive years, Indian-American kids have won the prestigious competition.
Geography whizzes can hone and highlight their skills by competing in a fair number of events. For US-based students, International Academic Competitions organizes two separate geography contests: the exam-oriented US Geography Olympiad; and the buzzer-based IGB tournament. The 2019 Varsity and Junior Varsity US national championships of the IGB were held April 26 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA. The competitions featured three preliminary rounds and two playoff rounds. Each round had 35 tossup questions, 5-7 lines in length.
Students are encouraged to stay apprised of current events as a good number of questions focus on what is currently happening in the world, and how geography applies to national and international affairs.
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