Last minute substitute claims Geo Bee middle school crown

San Juan Island 7th grader Corbin Williams, who volunteered to represent his class at the last minute, claimed this year
San Juan Island 7th grader Corbin Williams, who volunteered to represent his class at the last minute, claimed this year's Geo Bee championship, Tuesday, at Friday Harbor Middle School.
— image credit: Scott Rasmussen

Tuesday began pretty much like any other at Friday Harbor Middle School.

But then, not long after the first bell, one of the 7th grade class champions opted out of the annual school geography bee competition. Over in another part of the room, Corbin Williams heard opportunity knock.

So he answered. And answered, and answered.

In fact, about 35 minutes and 10 nerve-wracking questions later, not only had Corbin seized the day, a last-minute volunteer, he had made the most of out of that unexpected opportunity. It might just be the start of something big for the newly crowned middle school Geo Bee champ.

"I didn't expect to be in it so I didn't really study at all," Corbin said. "Now I want to go on and do bigger things, way bigger, because of this."

That's what a taste of triumph can do.

As Geo Bee champion, Corbin receives a new atlas, a medallion, a gift certificate from Griffin Bay Bookstore and, perhaps best of all, a pass that will allow him to take "cuts" to the front of the lunch line. He also earns the opportunity to take a written exam and, depending on the results, a chance to compete at the statewide competition later this spring.

Middle School Geo Bee runner-up Christopher Hallock also earned a medallion, a Griffin Bay Bookstore gift certificate and a front-of-the-lunch-line pass as well.

A total of 10 students, all of whom bested their respective classmates in the preliminary rounds — with one notable exception, Corbin, that is —competed for the title of middle school Geo Bee champion. In the finals, after seven rounds of questions about cities, states, bodies of water, population gains and losses, and foreign countries, eight competitors had been eliminated and only Christopher and Corbin were left standing.

In the championship round, a best of three-question format, the degree of difficulty increased dramatically. But Corbin correctly answered one of the three -- identifying which large gulf of water is home to the Barrier islands, which help shelter a nature reserve on Apalachicola Bay — to win the competition. (Answer: Gulf of Mexico).

Despite his first-place finish, Corbin plans to be better equipped for future geography events. When asked whether he felt ready for this year's competition, he replied, "Prepared? No, not at all. But I'm really happy how it turned out."

This is the ninth year that Friday Harbor's middle and elementary schools have participated in the National Geo Bee. The finals at the elementary school finals were slated to take place Wednesday, Dec. 14. The Geo Bee competition is open to students ages 8-14.



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