Grayling Middle School student is spot on as geography bee champ
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Grayling Middle School eighth grader Andrew Walsh is hoping to chart his course south for spring break – at least to Kalamazoo in southwest Michigan – having won the school’s National Geographic Geography Bee earlier this month.
Preliminary rounds for the National Geographic Geography Bee were held prior to winter break with all 350 students in the school participating.
The final rounds for the competition were held on Monday, Jan. 9, with three students representing their sixth, seventh, and eighth grade classes.
Walsh, Katelyn Moore, and seventh grader Chevy Leblanc were the three finalists.
Moore, who has the distinction of being the only back-to-back winner in Grayling Middle School’s history with the National Geographic Geography Bee, and Walsh paired off in two final rounds.
“It was a good competition, especially between the two of them, but all the kids did a good job in the finals,” said Craig Hofman, the seventh and eighth grade social studies teacher at Grayling Middle School who oversees the school’s National Geographic Geography Bee. “It went longer than it usually does.”
Walsh ended up with the right answer to the final question of the geography bee, which was Panama as the country that is on the northern border of Columbia.
Walsh said he was excited to be victorious.
“I was pretty happy that I finally got to win and I finally got the chance to go onto the state,” he said.
Walsh acknowledged that he also had some bittersweet feelings since Moore was not a three-peat winner for the school’s competition.
“I kind of feel bad for Katelyn, because she really wanted this all three years,” Walsh said. “I just kind of feel bad for her, but I was really, really happy when I finally won.”
Walsh took the online test in hopes of qualifying for Michigan’s National Geographic Geography Bee on Friday, Jan. 20. He felt fairly confident after taking the test.
“I think I did pretty good,” Walsh said.
The state finals are held at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo in March. Hofman said the state competition aligns with the school’s spring break, so local students don’t have to miss school to travel to the event.
Walsh, the son of Gretchen and Walter Walsh, said he will be honing his knowledge of geography in hopes of being at the state competition.
“I’m going to start studying,” he said.
Hofman, who is also the chairman for the Grayling Middle School Social Studies Department, said a number of northern Michigan and Upper Peninsula schools are typically represented at the state competition.
Hofman said he appreciates giving students the chance to take a break from their regular school courses to put a spotlight geography.
“It’s fun for the kids and it’s an opportunity for us to focus on geography, which we don’t have a chance to do in class a lot of the time,” Hofman said.
Hofman added that the competition was diversified this year, requiring students to know continents, oceans, and countries along with mountain ranges, rivers, and some scientific data.
Students that take part in the preliminary rounds of the competition get extra credit for answering the questions correctly. The competition offers some multiple choice selections in the preliminary rounds, and gets tougher near the end.
“That last round you have to know it,” Hofman said. “It’s tough, but I think it’s fun for the kids to take a break from the other stuff we’re doing.”
Walsh hopes to carry his knowledge of geography beyond Grayling in his recreational and career pursuits.
“It just kind of interests me, where everything is,” Walsh said. “That way, when I grow up, I can travel to different places and know where different things are.”