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K-State Today

March 12, 2012

Claiming their terrain: Geography students part of Champion World Geography Bowl Team

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Knowledge of Broadway plays, the Middle East and even monsters helped three Kansas State University geography students and their team win the 2012 World Geography Bowl.

The university's Ben Detrixhe, junior in geography, Clyde; Jim Wells, doctoral student in geography, Averill Park, N.Y.; and Tyra Olstad, doctoral student in geography, Tonawanda, N.Y., were on the six-member team representing the Great Plains/Rocky Mountain Region of the Association of American Geographers at the World Geography Bowl. The competition took place at the annual meeting of the association, Feb. 24-28, in New York City. Also on the team were students from the University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Colorado at Denver and the University of Wyoming.

It's the second consecutive year that the Great Plains/Rocky Mountain team won the event. The 2011 team also had three K-State members, including Detrixhe. He served as team captain both this year and last year. He also was among the top 10 individual scorers at this year's event.

The K-State students earned a place on the Great Plains/Rocky Mountain team by being among the top scoring individuals at a regional geography bowl competition in fall 2011. The six-member competition teams must have males and females and at least one member who is an undergraduate.

At the World Geography Bowl, the eight teams in this year's competition played each other in a round-robin format, with the two teams with the best records advancing to the finals. The final round included 12 toss-up questions and four team questions. Visual aids, in the form of a slideshow, also were used.

Olstad is a three-year member of the K-State and Great Plains region GeoBowl teams, also serving in 2009 and 2010.

"I enjoy participating for several reasons. The questions help me appreciate just how diverse a discipline geography is," she said. "The best way to study for the GeoBowl, aside from taking specific classes, is to pay attention to the news. Most GeoBowls focus on current events. This year there was a heavy emphasis on energy resources. And because the competition was in New York City, two whole rounds had Broadway-themed questions."

Wells has been a regional GeoBowl participant for five years: 2007 and 2009-2012.

"I find the GeoBowl to be a great way to interact with other geographers from around the country in an informal, friend setting," he said. "It's much more relaxed than the atmosphere offered by presentation sessions."

Detrixhe enjoys geography bowls because it mixes two of his interests: geography and trivia. He is a three-time winner of the Kansas Geography Bee, earning titles in 2001, 2002 and 2005. He placed ninth in the National Geographic Bee in 2002 and seventh in 2005.

"I competed in the National Geographic Bee in middle school and competed in quiz bowl for as long as I have been able to, so when I found out there was such a thing as GeoBowl and that K-State competed in it, I knew I had to try it," he said. "This is my second year and I look forward to it next year as well."

Knowledge of trivia paid off for the Great Plains/Rocky Mountain team in the final round, Detrixhe said.

"Our favorite series of questions were the final two team questions in the final round," he said. "They gave the names of some well-known monsters and each team had to give the country of region where the monster was most associated. We got all of the points for our question, which included: Yeti, Himalayas; Bigfoot, United States; Loch Ness Monster, Scotland; the Chupacabra, Mexico; and King Kong, New York City."