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Sengsoury wins WC Geography Bee
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Taleyna Sengsoury (center) answers a geography questions at Whitmore Charter School on her way to winning the school geography bee while Naiyleah Arellano and Tony Cortez listen on. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Eighth-grader Taleyna Khanice Sengsoury outlasted nine other competitors to win the Whitmore Charter School Geography Bee last Thursday sponsored by the National Geography Society.

Sengsoury won the championship round against seventh-grader Tony Cortez when she correctly identified Afghanistan as the name of the country that connects to Pakistan via the Khyber Pass.

Taleyna will be given a qualifying quiz that will be forwarded to the National Geography to be considered for the State Geographic Bee and possibly the 27th annual National Geographic Bee where $50,000 in college scholarships will be doled out to the champion. Up to 100 of the top scorers on that test in each state will be eligible to compete in their State Bee on March 27.

The competition held at the school - which occupies the Berryhill Elementary School campus - started out with 10 competitors in fifth-graders Jason Keifer and Rayana Coleman; sixth-graders Vivien Chen and Adriana Huaracha; seventh-graders Naiyleah Arellano, Tony Cortez, Elias Collins and Kadine Richardson; and eighth-graders Sengsoury and Iraya Cross. To reach the competition, the 10 competed in seven rounds and beat out 24 of their classmates.

This was the second Geographic Bee that Sengsoury and Cortez have participated in.

"These guys have sacrificed their lunch breaks and in many times after school sessions to study to prepare for this moment," said Bee overseer and teacher Matt Huttsel. "It's an honor to make it here."

In the first round of questions centering on U.S. geography, only three of the 10 students answered correctly. Questions like these were lobbed at the students:

• Bethlehem, Scranton and State College are home to universities in which state that was one of the original 13 British colonies? (Pennsylvania);

• Which Rocky Mountain state with a northern panhandle is a leading producer of potatoes? (Idaho);

• Cape Ann, located northeast of Salem, is in which North Atlantic coast state? (Massachusetts);

• Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located just west of the Pecos River in which state? (New Mexico);

• Glacier National Park is located in the Rocky Mountains northwest of Bozeman in which state? (Montana).
Some rounds called for students to write down their answers on a white board.

Questions also touched on the names of rivers, peninsulas, continents and countries. One round called on students to interpret a U.S. map - not labeled with state names - but shaded by state to show U.S. youth soccer participation rates. The audience was allowed to see the same map on an overhead projection screen. Specific questions were asked that put state outlines to the test.

Keifer, Arellano and Collins were dismissed in the first round of eliminations. That left seven to answer a white board question as to what state has Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty (New York).

The questions grow increasing more difficult. Iraya Cress correctly answered which river is fed by the Hila River when she answered Colorado River. Adriana Huaracha correctly guessed that Arkansas is a leading producer of rice in the United States and appeared shocked that she got it right. Vivien Chen was unable to correctly answer what river forms much of the western border of New Hampshire, guessing "Delaware" and not the Connecticut River. Cortez answered correctly "Wyoming" to the question of which state bordered by Montana to the north and South Dakota to the east was the first to give women the right to vote in 1869. However, Kadin Richardson bombed when she was asked what state, other than Colorado, is bordered by the Red River. He answered Kansas when the answer was Texas.

In the second round of eliminations, Coleman, Chen and Richardson were gone, leaving just Cress, Cortez, Huaracha and Sengsoury. The tough questions then eliminated Huaracha and Cress.

In the last round - which included questions on foreign regions - both Sengsoury and Cortez struck out with their wrong answers so they went to single elimination. Both incorrectly identified the country where Jack London's Call of the Wild takes place (Canada), and both failed to answer "Scandinavian" when asked on what European peninsula Norway is located. They also missed when asked the name of the east African nation where National Geographic explorer Shivani Bhalla works with warriors in the Samburu region to protect lions south of Lake Turkana. The answer was Kenya and Sengsoury answered Somalia and Cortez wrote down Ethiopia.

In the next question, both correctly answered Pacific when asked for the name of the ocean where the uninhabited Tonga island of Hunga Ha-apai which has grown in size because of recent volcanic activity.

The next question but Sengsoury with the win she needed to take the championship with her answer of Afghanistan on the Khyber Pass question. Cortez incorrectly said India.