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Palm Harbor student wins National Geographic Bee

Aadith Moorthy will get the star treatment in New York City today, a day after winning the 22nd annual National Geographic Bee in Washington, D.C.

"I'm going to be interviewed on The Early Show, Fox 13, CNN and MSN tomorrow," he said Wednesday in a telephone interview while en route to the airport for his flight to New York. "I'm happy. I feel relieved that I don't have to study anymore."

The 13-year-old eighth-grader from Palm Harbor Middle School beat out nine other boys in a battle of world knowledge. He wins a $25,000 college scholarship and a trip to the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific west of Ecuador.

"I can take a break and get back to my singing," said Aadith, who gives local performances of Carnatic music, the classical music of southern India. "I haven't had much time to practice, and I've missed that."

Interestingly enough, he was put on the spot during introductions when host Alex Trebek asked him to sing a Carnatic tune.

• • •

The final question asked for the largest city in northern Haiti, which was renamed following Haiti's independence from France. The answer was Cap-Haitien. Aadith had it and gave a small fist pump.

"I feel great," Aadith said with a big smile shortly afterward. "The mission is accomplished."

His father, Subramaniam Satyamoorthy, gave him a hug and bowed slightly before his geography whiz son.

When writing 20 new facts a day helped him win the state championship, Aadith boosted his fact writing to 50 a day studying for the national bee. That preparation helped him advance to the final 10 Tuesday and win it all Wednesday.

By now, "he has enough (knowledge) for a couple of books," his father said.

Aadith spent most of the bee, though, on the edge of defeat. He was the only contestant to answer incorrectly in the first round of Wednesday's finals and would have been eliminated if he was wrong again. He acknowledged he was scared, but nerves didn't throw the aspiring physicist.

"We were worried when he missed that question in the first round," said Aadith's mother, Suguna Moorthy. "Now we are so happy there are no words to express how we feel.

"He spent so many hours preparing. On school days, he studied geography before he completed his homework. On weekends he studied 10 hours a day."

His teacher, Michelle Anderson, who also traveled to Washington to watch Aadith compete, said that misstep didn't shake his confidence.

"His first question was really tough," Anderson said. "It was something about which city had 71/2 million people within its city limits. He had three choices.

"Aadith knew it wasn't Kiev. When he chose Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and it was Kinshasa, he didn't lose his concentration. He stayed focused, which says a lot for his control, his stamina and endurance. And he took the whole competition."

Aadith clinched the victory with knowledge of Botswana, Argentina and Sweden in the best-of-five final round, as his final opponent, 13-year-old Oliver Lucier of Wakefield, R.I., stumbled.

"They were hard. They were really hard," Oliver said of the final questions.

Still, Oliver, a soccer player, will take home a $15,000 scholarship for second place. Karthik Mouli, 12, of Boise, Idaho, came in third to win a $10,000 scholarship. Both runners-up also represented their states at the national bee last year.

• • •

Right after the victory, Aadith and his proud entourage were giving nonstop interviews to television crews, newspaper reporters and radio show hosts. A few hours later, he was off to New York.

Aadith knows he will get a break on Friday when he comes home, but when he was asked what he's looking forward to, he said, "Sleeping in my own bed."

Principal Victoria Hawkins of Palm Harbor Middle School is thrilled for Aadith, the school and the school district.

"We are so proud of him," she said. "He is an unbelievable student with a huge thirst for knowledge."

His teacher, Anderson, said she "felt a sense of immense joy and pride when he answered the winning question."

"I'm proud to have had a small role in helping him. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Fast facts

Questions asked in the final round

1. Tswana is a Bantu language spoken by the largest ethnic group in what land-locked country? Answer: Botswana.

2. The Oresund Bridge opened in 2000; it connects Copenhagen, Denmark, with what Swedish city? Answer: Malmo.

3. Cam Ranh Bay has served as a naval base for Japan, France, U.S. and the former Soviet Union. This bay is located in which country. Answer: Vietnam.

Palm Harbor student wins National Geographic Bee 05/26/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 12:53am]

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