Texas middle-schooler wins National Geographic Bee

2011 National Geographic Bee winner Tine Valencic, 13, from Colleyville, Texas, left, is congratulated by Dylan Smith, from Idaho Falls, Idaho.
2011 National Geographic Bee winner Tine Valencic, 13, from Colleyville, Texas, left, is congratulated by Dylan Smith, from Idaho Falls, Idaho. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

WASHINGTON — Tine Valencic, a seventh-grader from Colleyville, Texas, won the 2011 National Geographic Bee on Wednesday.

He beat 53 other contestants — one from each state, the District of Columbia, Defense Department schools and Atlantic and Pacific U.S. territories — to win the grand prize: a $25,000 scholarship, lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society and a trip to the Galapagos Islands.

"It's great," the soft-spoken chap said after the moderator, "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek, declared him the winner and handed him a giant mock-up of a $25,000 check. "I don't know how to describe it."

Tine, 13, whose family is from Slovenia, knew what to do when he won: He called his father in Texas. "He was excited," the youngster said.

Eleven-year-old Nilai Sarda of Atlanta came in second, while 13-year-old Stefan Petrovic of Lawrence, Kan., came in third. They'll receive $15,000 and $10,000 college scholarships, respectively.

Andrew Hull, a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Rogers Park Elementary School in Anchorage, Alaska, was among the top 10 finalists.

At Colleyville Middle School, the morning victory was announced over the public address system, after the winner's social studies teacher and school principal, who were at the competition at National Geographic's headquarters, alerted the school.

On Wednesday night the geography whiz, accompanied by his mother, Jana, was to make a brief appearance at a banquet for the participants before hopping on a train to New York City, where the festivities will continue.

Thursday morning, Tine will appear on TV's "Live! With Regis and Kelly," where he'll compete with Regis Philbin on geography questions. He'll also be interviewed on CNN.

Tine also competed last year as Texas champion but didn't make the finals. This time, he missed only one question on the first day. Under National Geographic rules, contestants can miss one question and still advance. He answered nine questions the first day and 25 questions correctly Wednesday.

The winning question: Thousands of mountain climbers and trekkers rely on Sherpas to aid their ascent of Mount Everest. The southern part of Mount Everest is in which Nepalese national park?

The answer: Sagarmatha National Park.

Tine, who was born in Detroit and has lived in Texas for seven years, became interested in geography when he was in kindergarten and was given an atlas. "I was intrigued by it," he said.


The National Geographic Bee


Obama: The West still leads the world in the 21st century

WikiLeaks: Saudis often warned U.S. about oil speculators

Bahrain's arrests of opponents show unsettling pattern of abuse

Follow the latest politics news at McClatchy's Planet Washington