And then there was one.

After more than 40 minutes of competition, which included three tie-breakers, sixth-grader Terry Sullivan beat out seventh-grader Jacob Friedmann and fifth-grader Katie Cahill to win the Roosevelt Middle School Geography Bee.

Ten students, grades 5-8, competed in this year’s contest. Two of the students Sullivan bested — Will Roche and Nicholas Rosenbaum — were finalists in last year’s competition. 

“I was really surprised I won, especially with all the eighth-graders and last winners,” said Sullivan, who participated in last year’s Roosevelt competition but did not qualify for the finals.

The 11-year-old now has to wait until the end of the month before taking a qualifying test to go see if he will be among 100 students who will compete in the state finals.

How did he do it? The old-fashioned way: studying. 

Sullivan said he read through the Geography Bee Complete Preparation Handbook and looked at material on the National Geographic website. National Geographic sponsors the annual competition. He even put in time during winter break. 

He didn’t study the entire realm of geography, a vast subject indeed. Sullivan said he did concentrate on cities, countries, states and continents, the names, features and locations.

He plans to spend a bit more time studying for the qualifying test and becoming more familiar with material as time goes on.

Every social studies student took part in the preliminary round, which took place around holiday break. 

Students were asked a series of questions. Once they missed two, they were eliminated from competition. Three students with the top scores go on to the single elimination round, which consists of writing down answers in 15 seconds on a dry-erase board and then giving them out loud when the time is up, said Tim Considine, a sixth-grade social studies teacher who oversees the effort at Roosevelt. There are tie-breakers if each student answers the questions in that round correctly or incorrectly. 

Geography is stressed in the curriculum at Roosevelt, Considine said.

“It influences our daily lives, even in the most minute of details,” he said.

The winners of the state competition go on to the finals in Washington D.C. in late May and compete for a $50,000 scholarship among other prizes. No Roosevelt student has ever gone on to the nationals. 

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