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Montana Boy Displays Worldly Knowledge to Win Geography Bee

May 26, 1994

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Tagus River, which divides Portugal into two agricultural regions, divided winner from loser at the sixth annual national geography bee.

Anders Knospe, 14, of Bozeman, Mont., gave the correct answer Wednesday when asked to name the country that the Tagus bisects. He walked off with a $25,000 scholarship.

Michael Bebow, 14, of Metairie, La., guessed that the Tagus divides Italy, relegating him to second place and a $15,000 scholarship.

Knospe bested nine other finalists Wednesday to win the bee, sponsored by the National Geographic Society and Amtrak. Afterward, he admitted he almost missed the last question.

″I thought it might be Spain,″ he said.

Third place went to Jeorse Lund, 14, of Henderson, Nev. He was knocked out of contention when he couldn’t come up with the Dutch word for land reclaimed from the sea. (It’s ″polder.″) His prize: a $10,000 scholarship.

Knospe grinned and blushed to his blond hairline as National Geographic Society President Gilbert Grosvenor handed him a giant $25,000 check.

″Tough questions, great competition,″ Grosvenor said. ″I think we’ve also proved that American education can succeed.″

The society created the bee in response to evidence that America’s youngsters don’t know much about geography. In a 10-country Gallup Survey conducted for the society in 1988 and 1989, Americans aged 18 to 24, the youngest group polled, scored lower than young people in any other country.

Knospe, an eighth-grader at Chief Joseph Middle School in Bozeman, said he was relieved at the end of Wednesday’s competition. Asked what he planned to do to celebrate, Knospe said, ″I don’t know. Go to New York.″

The 10 finalists, all between 11 and 14 years old, breezed through the first round of the bee, which was moderated by Alex Trebek, host of the TV game show ″Jeopardy.″

Trebek led off with: ″Santo Domingo, the first permanent settlement in the Americas, is in which present-day island country?″ (Answer: Dominican Republic.) He finished the round with: ″Name the strait that allows ships to avoid the treacherous open waters around Cape Horn.″ (Answer: Strait of Magellan.)

The youngest competitor Wednesday, 11-year-old Matthew Coyle of Westminster, Md., was knocked out in a round featuring hats of the world.

″Hats like this one are worn by palace guards in one of the world’s ancient cities,″ Trebek said as a youngster walked on stage wearing a red skullcap with a long brown tassel. ″Name this city, which is the southernmost capital on the mainland of Europe.″

Coyle guessed Madrid. The right answer was Athens.

Jeff Hoppes, last year’s third-place winner, was knocked out by the 63rd of the 72 questions asked Wednesday. Hoppes, 14, of Lancaster, Pa., guessed that the Simplon and Saint Gotthard Passes in the south-central Alps connect Italy and France. The correct answer was Italy and Switzerland.

A total of 6 million students participated in the bee, which began at schools around the country. Fifty-seven state-level winners - representing the states, U.S. territories and overseas dependents - competed for the 10 finalist slots.

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