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Windemere Ranch student wins California geography bee

Venkat Ranjan headed to national finals in DC next month

California has a new National Geographic State Bee champion: San Ramon middle-schooler Venkat Ranjan.

The Windemere Ranch eighth-grader defeated 99 other competitors from all around California during the state finals held at Fresno State on April 6. The state championship earns Ranjan a spot in the national geography been in Washington, D.C. from May 21-23, when he will compete against winners from every other state for a chance at the grand prize.

“It felt really great,” Ranjan said “I’ve been working for this for a long time.”

The contest is designed to encourage teachers to include geography in the classroom, increase students interest in the subject and increase public awareness about geography, according to National Geographic.

“He's been training for three years now and he's worked really hard and persevered,” said Ranjan’s mother Chinmayee. “We are really proud of him.”

In addition to winning a trip to Washington D.C. for him and his family, Ranjan has received a $200 cash prize and a National Geographic Visual Atlas of the World, second edition, for becoming California's state champion.

In the national competition, Ranjan will face off against a total of 53 competitors, one from each state and one each from Washington D.C., the Atlantic Territories, Pacific Territories and the Department of Defense.

The 54 state and territorial champions will compete in preliminary challenges consisting of 10 oral rounds as well as a written portion. The top 10 finalists with the highest scores from the preliminary rounds will then face off in the finals round. The top two surviving contestants will then face off in a final championship round.

“We've made a list of things I need to know and sorted it by country,” Ranjan said when asked about how he is preparing for nationals. “We also have a lot of spreadsheets.”

The winner of the national bee will receive a $50,000 scholarship and a lifetime subscription to National Geographic Magazine. Second place earns a $25,000 scholarship and third receives a $10,000 scholarship. Contestants who place in the top 10 will each receive a cash prize of $500.

In total San Ramon Valley Unified School District was represented by five students from the area at the state finals, four qualifiers from San Ramon and one from Danville. The Tri-Valley was represented by nine students in total.

Returning state champion seventh grade Ahilan Eraniyan from Diablo Vista Middle School in Danville placed third in the state competition.

Nationals will be streamed live online.

National Geographic offers a online practice quiz for any person interested in testing their geography knowledge.

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