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Sharp memory lands sixth grader Langley Middle School geography title

Carli Newman has the world in her hands after winning the National Geographic Geography Bee at Langley Middle School. The sixth-grade student is the first in at least seven years to win the school title, which typically goes to seventh-grade and eighth-grade students.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Carli Newman has the world in her hands after winning the National Geographic Geography Bee at Langley Middle School. The sixth-grade student is the first in at least seven years to win the school title, which typically goes to seventh-grade and eighth-grade students.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

On the spot, sitting in front of her Langley Middle School peers, Carli Newman had only one question between her and the title of Queen (Geography) Bee.

One question and one right answer, and it was hers. The question came: “Three Gorges Dam, one of the largest hydroelectric power stations in the world, is located on what river that flows into the east China Sea?”

Carli did not know the answer, but she knew the name of one river in China: the Yangtze. And Carli’s guess was correct.

“I thought I got it wrong,” Carli said. “It was the only one I really knew.”

Carli had emerged the school’s National Geographic geography bee winner from among 12 other students. She was the first sixth-grade student to win the contest in at least six years.

“Normally it’s one of the older kids,” said Mary Bakeman, a language arts/social studies teacher and the bee’s organizer.

Carli finished the state-qualifying written exam recently. Results will be known at the end of February, and the top 100 scores in Washington qualify for the state event.

South Whidbey has been represented at the state bee for seven years in a row, as long as Bakeman has run the program.

Studying countries, capitals and major geographic features has been a lifelong lesson for Carli. Rather than flipping on a smartphone to look up the name of a place, Carli and her mom, Erin Waterman, referenced their printed atlas.

Yes, a printed atlas.

It gives Carli an idea of the expansiveness of the world, which in turn planted a seed of adventure in the girl’s mind.

“I want to travel a lot,” Carli said.

The night before the school’s bee, Carli and her mom flipped through the atlas to prepare. They focused mostly on capitals and country names. Memorizing places comes easily to Carli, who said she envisions them as a list. She alphabetically recites the United States of America, for example, and pictures other continents as puzzle pieces to help remember their names.

“I work better with memorizing lists,” Carli said.

Langley Middle School’s bee was short compared to previous years.

Many students were eliminated in the second round after the second question stumped 12 students before Liam Twomey correctly responded. Students are eliminated after their second incorrect response, unless it passes the entire field unanswered.

Here are the other geography bee contestants and their classroom alternates: Anton Klein, Tylar Riebel, Fiona Callahan, Mei Mei Hensler, Alex Leski, Logan Madsen, Antonia Knox, Alex Foode, Ben Borson, Kade Petty, James Ogden, Rebekah Merrow, Jovani Thomas, Hannah Nielson, Laura Miller, Fulton Bryant-Anderson, Kyah Nelson, Kylayna White, Spencer Kemp-Soenke, Miriam Dandridge, Mikayla Kestle, Sean Miles, Callum MacDonald, Julian Fifield and Gwyn Ramsay.

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