Interview with Rishi Nair, Saketh Jonnalagadda, Kapil Nathan – Top 3 at 2016 National Geographic Bee

Rishi Nair studied geography for 10-12 hours a day.

AB Wire

Rishi Nair

WASHINGTON, DC: Indian Americans got the top three positions in the 2016 National Geographic Bee, held at the National Geographic Society, in Washington, DC, on Wednesday.

Rishi Nair, 12, a fifth-grader from Lincoln Magnet School, Plant City, Florida, won the competition. Saketh Jonnalagadda, an 8th grader at Stony Brook Middle School, Westford, Massachusetts, came second, while Kapil Nathan, a 6th grader from Hoover, Alabama, was third.

It’s the fifth straight year an Indian American contestant has won the Bee, with the previous winners being: Rahul Nagvekar in 2012, Sathwik Karnik in 2013, Akhil Rekulapelli in 2014, and Karan Menon in 2015.

The American Bazaar caught up with the winners of this year’s competition. Edited excerpts from their comments:

Rishi Nair – I feel really proud of myself; and I feel excited and happy. I studied geography like about 10-12 hours a day and just putting in all the effort I could. . .taking all the time, all the free time that I had to study geography and I really wanted to win.

On the final stages of the competition: I was in the lead. When I went to World Geography I missed I think three questions. So I was a bit scared but then I got the last lightning round all ones correct; that was 6 points, total. Well, the score was tight and then I knew that I had to like really like get one right, he had to miss once…the last one, for Lake Kivu, I put like Albert but then luckily I erased it and then put like Lake Kivu; and I won.

His inspiration and motivator: Well, my mom, she gave me the basics of geography until like fourth grade and then in fifth and sixth I started to put in more effort on my own and then it really paid off.

Advice to aspirants: Study with every single minute of free time you have; and have to be focused on every question; and if you get everything right you’ll land up as champion.

Saketh Jonnalagadda – At first, I was disappointed but my coach said that I should keep calm and just try and answer everything else correct and I almost got there. So, I’m pretty happy.

Method of study: I just use a lot of online resources to get as many facts I could, about each country, really understand each country. I really loved this subject, since like first second grade because I always liked looking at US maps. But I started like really going in  to the Geography Bee seriously around last year.

Future plans: I don’t know. I’ll like to go to MIT; but we’ll see.

Advice for aspirants: If you like geography just try it out. If you are willing to put in all the hard work, go for it. Just learning all that geography that you do learn while studying is going to make you winner in the end.

Kapil Nathan – What he likes beside geography: Football…I won twice in state chess championship for my age level so, and I’ve been in championship with my baseball team twice and I just play football with my friends.

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