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Sources: Richard Marston, 785-532-6727,;
and Tyra Olstad,
News release prepared by: Beth Bohn, 785-532-6415,

Friday, Oct. 9, 2009


MANHATTAN -- Knowing such facts like destinations along the Silk Road and the position of the sun on the winter solstice has helped a team from Kansas State University win the GeoBowl at the recent annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers Great Plains-Rocky Mountain Division.

"We were very excited to win the division tournament," said Tyra Olstad, a K-State team member and doctoral student in geography from Tonawanda, N.Y. Olstad tied for first place in individual scores for the GeoBowl. She will be on the select team representing the Great Plains-Rocky Mountain Division at the World Geography Bowl, a part of the national meeting of the Association of American Geographers, April 14-18, 2010, in Washington, D.C. The division team is selected from the top individual scorers at the event.

The K-State team was organized by the university's chapter of Gamma Theta Upsilon, the international geography honor society, from volunteers in the department of geography. Along with Olstad, team members included Melissa Belz, doctoral student in geography, Samantha Hartley, master's student in geography, and Colton Youngs, freshman in philosophy, all from Manhattan; and Jim Wells, doctoral student in geography, Averill Park, N.Y.

"The GeoBowl included toss-up questions that ranged from simple location facts -- naming capital cities, bodies of water, relative position of countries, etc. -- to queries about language families, religions, ancient trade routes, ecosystem dynamics, geospatial modeling techniques and even the settings for works of literature," Olstad said.

"Group questions often involved series, for example, naming the states that stretch along the 39th parallel -- Kansas is one of them -- or determining the world's largest rivers by volume -- no one thought of the Rio de la Plata," she said.

When it comes to participating in the national competition, Olstad said she will be ready. "There's really no one way to prepare for the national competition, aside from paying attention to current events and tucking little bits of seemingly esoteric knowledge into the back of your mind, like that the USDA has 12 soil orders and the Republic of Kosovo declared independence last year," she said. "Teaching a section of World Regional Geography in the spring will probably be my best training."

The GeoBowl competition is patterned after the old television show "College Bowl," where each team sits at a table with electronic buzzers that members can each activate if they think they know the answer to a toss-up question. Additional questions also are asked where the team members can confer and answer as a team. To take first place at the divisional level, the K-State team unseated the defending champion team from the University of Wyoming.