It was a little more than knowing the names of state capitals. Make that a lot more.
Fifth- through eighth-graders competing in the Illinois State Geographic Bee Friday faced a plethora of questions, ranging from the names of obscure cities, rivers and mountain ranges to the native lands of various currencies and languages.
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Take a geography quizThese five questions were answered correctly by fifth- through eighth-graders who competed Friday in the final round of the Illinois Geographic Bee. How would you do?
1. What present-day city located northwest of the mouth of the Indus River was a former capital of Pakistan?
2. The ruins of Leptis Magna, a city of the Roman Empire, are located east of Tripoli, in which country?
3. What country on the Jutland peninsula has qualified to use the Euro as its currency but still uses the traditional krone?
4. Which country is bordered by Lesotho and Botswana?
5. What oil-rich lake is connected to the Gulf of Venezuela by Tablazo Bay?
4. South Africa
5. Lake Maracaibo
"It's just amazing what these kids know, and at such a young age," said Michael Middleton, coordinator for the Illinois Geographic Bee, held at College of DuPage. "A lot of the kids I talk to, when they were 3 or 4 someone gave them a map or a globe or an atlas and that triggered something in them. They just learned all about people, places, things on our planet. It's utterly amazing."
In less than four hours, the 100 contestants from across the state were narrowed down to 10 who competed in a final round. That group included seventh-grader Joshua Smoron of Gurnee, who finished second, and fifth-grader Aditya Badlani of Oak Brook, who finished third.
An estimated 500 audience members sat in awe as the finalists correctly answered dozens of tricky questions during the bee, which is sponsored by the National Geographic Society.
Castilian is the official language of which Mediterranean country?
"Spain," one boy responds in a matter of seconds.
What Central American country was once a province that was part of Columbia?
"Panama," another answers without pause.
The city of Basel, divided by the Rhine River, is an important transportation center in which country?
"Switzerland," a finalist quickly replies.
Maps and photos of the places were occasionally displayed on a projector behind the long table where the students were seated on a stage.
Two wrong answers resulted in elimination, and when it came down to the final two, Joshua was up against sixth-grader Mantra Dave of Normal.
Mantra won the bee and will now be heading to Washington to participate in the national competition after answering two of the three final questions correctly.
Both boys correctly responded with "Brussels" when asked which Belgian city is often referred to as the Capital of Europe. Both had incorrect responses to a question about a sea in the Arctic Ocean.
But Joshua took second place because he got another question wrong.
It read: "In the 1500s, sailors from the Basque region of Europe established a whaling station on the strait of Belle Isle in what present day country?"
The answer was Canada, but Joshua answered United Kingdom.
"That was a hard one," his father, Timothy Smoron, assured him after the competition.
Joshua was still all smiles -- especially because he improved from last year, when he didn't make it past the preliminary rounds.
He has been studying about 15 hours a week, which involves filling out a lot of blank maps and regular quizzes from his parents. He also makes stops at the library two to three times a week to get geography books and regularly flips through travel brochures.
"I'm glad it's over," he said, adding that he was really nervous when he made it to the top 10.
Other finalists from the suburbs included eighth-grader Alexander Kuptel of Willowbrook; eighth-grader Kevin Mullen of Northbrook; sixth-grader Jack Nicholson of Libertyville; eighth-grader Aryaman Rajnish of Naperville; and seventh-grader Vikas Reddy of Palatine.
"I felt really happy," Aditya said about making it into the top 10. "I was happy for everyone else who made it and everyone else who competed."
His mother, Vandana Badlani, said Aditya has been impressing her with his knowledge since he was a toddler. This was already his second year taking part in the competition and she said he will certainly be back again next year.
"At that age I couldn't conduct myself the way he did, that all these kids did," she said. "The way they conduct themselves and the sportsmanship, I think that's really important."