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For 12-year-old geography whiz, persistence is key to victory

May 29, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Twelve-year-old Alex Kerchner of Washington state is champion of the National Geography Bee because he knew Singapore is Asia’s most densely populated country.

That correct answer Wednesday gave Kerchner victory over 56 other finalists and more than 5 million students nationwide. He won a $25,000 college scholarship and a lifetime subscription to National Geographic, the magazine that sponsored the contest.

It was the fourth time that Alex, a seventh-grader at Kamiakin Junior High School in Kirkland, Wash., had made the geography bee finals.

``Persistence paid off,″ he said. ``You have to keep trying, looking at everything until you get it all together. You just have to keep trying until you make it. I did it for four years and I finally won.″

But it wasn’t exactly easy.

Alex hesitated, then asked for a repeat of one question: ``The term `eolian’ refers to physical features that have been shaped by which agent of erosion?″

He then provided the correct answer: ``Wind.″

``I always seem calm, but I really am nervous,″ he said. ``I didn’t give up.″

Placing second and taking home a $15,000 scholarship was Steve Sreckovic, 14, an eighth-grader at South Milwaukee Middle School in South Milwaukee, Wis.

His incorrect answer to the tie breaking-question concerning Asia’s smallest and most densely populated country was Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a British colony, not a country.

Winner of third place and a $10,000 scholarship was Justin Mosel, 14, an eighth-grader at the Orchard Public School in Orchard, Neb.

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