Euless boy wins geography bee

Benjamin Benjadol really likes to study maps and, thanks to this hobby, the Euless seventh-grader is headed to Washington, D.C.

Benjamin, 13, will represent Texas in May at the 26th annual National Geographic Bee. He is the first student from the Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district to reach national competition, district officials said.

“It’s an honor,” he said.

The National Geographic Bee is annual competition for students in grades four through eight. Questions cover the world.

State finals were Friday. In Texas, the event was hosted by HEB schools in Bedford. One hundred students competed at the district’s Pat May Center. They came from cities including Arlington, Colleyville, Dallas, Austin, Houston and Corpus Christi.

Participants came from public, private and home schools, said Marci Deal, K-12 social studies coordinator for HEB schools. The top 100 are chosen based on test scores, Deal said.

Students compete for college scholarships. This year the national competition will be moderated by journalist Soledad O’Brien.

The competition, which began in 1989, includes students from the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories and Department of Defense schools.

Benjamin, a student at Central Junior High, became the state champion after correctly answering: “What is the name of the sea that is between the Taymyr Peninsula and the Novaya Zemyla Island?

The answer is the Kara Sea.

Gram Brinson of Houston and Joseph Afuso of Corpus Christi came in second and third place, respectively. The top three contestants took home trophies and cash prizes.

Deal said they are proud to have a home-grown winner at the event this year.

“It is very cool,” Deal said. “We really pride ourselves on being an international school district. This just fits in perfectly.”

Palap Benjadol, Benjamin’s mother, took photos as her son posed with his trophy next to an inflatable atlas.

“I’m so excited,” she said. “Overwhelming.”

Benjamin has been trying to make it to nationals for several years. He started participating in the fourth grade.

“This is the first time I go to D.C., and it’s really an honor to represent my school and my district in Washington,” Benjamin said. “This is my fourth time in the state geography bee, and my third time in the top 10.”

Benjamin recently competed in a regional spelling bee competition held at TCU. He was the runner-up.

“I have been juggling between the spelling bee and the geography bee for a long time,” he said.

Benjamin said it’s hard to compare the two competitions.

“Here, it was holistic,” Benjamin said. “You have to study the whole world and understand it.”

Getting to know the world seems natural for Benjamin whose family travels to his parents’ native country of Thailand.

He also manages a virtual airline in which participants use “flight simulators” on their computers. The hobby also allows him explore some geography, but he said he prefers to brush up for competition with a traditional explorer’s tool: “Studying with an atlas is always better.”