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Pennsylvania Girl Wins National Geography Bee Finals

May 24, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ An 11-year-old Pennsylvania girl, the only female among 10 finalists, walked away today with the second National Geography Bee championship and a $25,000 college scholarship.

Susannah Batko-Yovino, a sixth-grader from the Washington-Jefferson School in Altoona, Pa., answered a sudden-death question: ″Mount Erebus is a volcano on which continent?″

″Antarctica,″ Susannah replied, giving the correct answer to the question missed by 13-year-old Tim Forest, an eighth grader at C.J. Hooker Middle School in Goshen, N.Y.

″This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me,″ she said.

Susannah said she felt ″great″ being the bee winner but said ″it doesn’t really matter″ that she beat out so many boys.

Tim won second place and a $15,000 college scholarship, while the third- place $10,000 scholarship went to Martin Hohner, a 14-year-old eighth grader at Luther Burbank School in Chicago.

The winners’ scholarship money will be placed in interest-bearing accounts until they enroll in college.

When the competition had dwindled down to just two, both Susannah and Tim missed the first championship-round question. It was the first question she had answered incorrectly in the competition.

″What name was given to the ancient, overland trade routes that linked the Mediterranean World with China?″

She said the Oriental Route, and he answered the Overland Trail. The correct answer was the Silk Route. Other acceptable answers would have been the Silk Road, Jade Road, Fur Road or Emperor’s Road.

Three questions later it looked liked Susannah might win when she correctly answered ″Doppler″ and Tim said ″EDT″ when they were asked, ″What type of weather radar currently being installed in many weather stations worldwide makes earlier detection of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes possible?″

But Susannah’s incorrect answer to the next question: ″Newly elected President Fernando Collor de Mello has taken action to reduce drastically the runaway inflation of what country?″ sent them into the first of two tie- breaker rounds. Tim came up with Brazil, the correct answer.

The 10 finalists survived preliminary competition among 57 state winners by answering questions Wednesday in nine category rounds including physical, economic, political and cultural geography, architecture and rivers.

″I think that more girls should get involved in this kind of stuff rather than in majorettes and cheerleading and stuff,″ Susannah said, adding ″I’m not into that.″

Susannah said she’s always had an interest in geography and maps, ″but mostly it’s just ’cause I read, read, read, read, read.″

Alex Trebek, host of the popular television quiz show ″Jeopardy,″ moderated the finals in the contest organized by the National Geographic Society.

The 57 contestants, age 11 to 14, represented all 50 states, the District of Columbia, five territories and the Department of Defense schools. Each finalist gets $500.

The contest was developed to stimulate children’s interest in geography, said Gilbert Grosvenor, president and chairman of the National Geographic Society.

″These kids are going to have to be very well educated, particularly in geography,″ said Grosvenor. ″Environmental issues,in my opinion will be dominating summits. ... And a knowledge of geography is going to be critical in dealing with ocean pollution, atmospheric pollution and governmental differences.″

Recent studies have shown American adults and students seriously lacking in their knowledge of geography. In a 10-country survey conducted by the Gallup Organization Inc. in 1988 and 1989, Americans ranked among the bottom third and those age 18 to 24 came in last.

Grosvenor said studies also have shown ″that boys at a young age are more interested in spatial relations than girls are,″ which explained why so few girls - just seven - represented their states at the event.

Also competing in the finals today were:

-Sacha Arnold, 13, in the eighth grade at Lewis F. Cole Middle School in Fort Lee, N.J.

-Kevin David, 13, an eighth grader at Webb School in Knoxville, Tenn. Kevin is one of six students who participated in the preliminary rounds for the second time. Last year he didn’t make the finals.

-Gary Yngve, 11, who’s in the sixth grade at Dodgen Middle School in Marietta, Ga.

-Burt Vossen, 11, a sixth grader at St. Anne’s School in San Francisco.

-Chris Duncan, 13, an eighth grader at Alconbury High School on a U.S. military base in England.

-Mike Clark, 14, one of five eighth graders at Palisades Seventh Day Adventist School in Great Falls, Mont.

-Barry Craig Dean, 12, in the eighth grade Krueger Junior High School in Michigan City, Ind.

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