Youngest competitor, age 10, wins National Geographic Bee - 

By RANDOLPH E.  SCHMID The Associated Press
5/22/02 5:33 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) -- It took an instant replay to settle a disputed call in the National Geographic Bee, then the youngest contestant, 10-year-old Calvin McCarter of Jenison, Mich., emerged the winner

McCarter, standing just 4 feet 6 inches in a room full of bigger youngsters, many of them teen-agers, claimed victory Wednesday by correctly identifying China as the location of the Lop Nur nuclear test site.

It'll be a few years before he can use the main prize -- a $25,000 college scholarship.  He also won a lifetime subscription to National Geographic magazine.

McCarter is taught at home by his mother, Charlotte.  His father, Parnell McCarter, an accountant, said the family decided on home schooling to have their children receive a Christian education "in an atmosphere where there is a love of learning."

Young McCarter said he prefers being home schooled because he gets more personal attention.  In public school, he said, "you can't make children listen."

It was touch-and-go for a while Wednesday when a questioned call threatened to eliminate the fifth-grader.

"I was nervous when the judges went out" to view the replay, a step reminiscent of the National Football League, admitted the youngster who enjoys playing soccer and baseball.

The tense moments came when the last three contestants were battling for the two championship slots.

McCarter missed the name of warm, dry mountain winds in Europe.  He said mistral, but the correct answer was foehn.

Matthew Russell of Bradford, Pa., correctly named Estonia as the country which claims the islands of Muhu, Hiiumaa and Saaremaa.

Then Erik Miller of Kent, Wash., was asked to name the country where shadow puppet shows called wayang are common.  He correctly answered Indonesia, seemingly just as the time buzzer rang.

Host Alex Trebek ruled that the answer came too late, but judges in the audience said it was in time.

The decision was crucial because a correct answer by Miller would have eliminated McCarter.

Trebek sent the judges to the broadcast truck to view the replay and when they returned they reversed themselves and agreed with Trebek, the answer was too late.

That meant that McCarter and Miller had to compete against each other to face Russell in the finals.  McCarter won by knowing that the Kamchatka Peninsula separates the Bering Sea from the Sea of Okhotsk.

Then it was McCarter against Russell for the title, and the diminutive McCarter prevailed.

Russell, 14, who attends Fretz Middle School in Bradford won a $15,000 scholarship.  The third-place $10,000 scholarship went to Miller, a 14-year-old homeschooler.

In addition to the winners, the other seven finalists were:

--Isaiah Hess, a 14-year-old homeschooler from Colorado Springs, Colo.

--Aaron Kiersh, 12, a sixth-grader at Bedford Middle School, Westport, Conn.

--Ryan Felix, 14, who attends eighth grade at the American High School in Naples, Italy.  He represented Defense Department schools.

--Benjamin Detrixhe, 11, a fifth-grader at Clyde Elementary School, Clyde, Kan.

--Nathaniel Mattison, 13, an eighth-grader at H.C.  Crittenden Middle School in Armonk, N.Y.

--Alex Smith, 13, who attends eighth grade at Turrentine Middle School in Burlington, N.C.

--John Rice, a 14-year-old homeschooler from Maddock, N.D.


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