By Chea Waters Evans
Charlotte sixth grader Vega Tariyal said that for his final question at the Vermont state finals competition of the National Geographic GeoBee, his nervousness ranked a three out of 10. “I was more nervous in the beginning,” he said, during the preliminary rounds. By the time he got to the winning question, he said he felt pretty confident. What body of water separates the Australian states of Victoria and Tasmania? The Bass Strait, of course.
In addition to winning a medal and a prize pack that included stickers and a flashlight, Vega won $1,000 cash and the opportunity to head to Washington, D.C. for the national finals in May. The competition tests students’ knowledge of topics related to geography, cultures, physical features, history, and earth science. Vega said he studied for maybe two days a week leading up to the state competition after he won the Charlotte Central School GeoBee in January.
Vega’s father, Ajat Tariyal, said that Vega is also a ski racer at Mad River Glen, and that long ski weekends cut into his study time. He will amp up his preparation before the national competition now that ski racing season is over and he has more free time before spring soccer starts. Though his lucky socks and soccer jersey helped carry him through the state finals, Ajat said they’ve been told that the national finals require “business casual attire,” and acknowledged that in Vermont, that has a bit of a different meaning.
The national compeition begins on May 19, and Vega and his family—including his proud grandparents who live in Oklahoma—will be there to cheer him on. He will compete against 53 other GeoBee winners from around the country for the chance to win a $25,000 college scholarship, a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society and an all-expenses-paid Lindblad expedition to the Galápagos Islands aboard the National Geographic Endeavour ll. The second-place winner will receive a $10,000 college scholarship and the student placing third will receive a $5,000 college scholarship. The top-10-scoring students will each receive $1,000 in cash.
Vega’s fans can follow the national competition on the National Geographic website.