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Kavya Kalathur represented her state and school well at the National Geographic Bee last week in Washington, D.C.

The 13-year-old eighth-grader from Pleasant Valley Junior High School won the 2018 Iowa National Geographic State Bee competition, only the second girl to ever do so, in order to qualify for the national event, which took place May 20-23 at National Geographic’s Washington, D.C., headquarters and was moderated by humorist and journalist Mo Rocca. 

“Each person gets different questions. You have to know different places and cultures, bodies of water, state and national birds,” Kayva said. “It is really nerve-racking when you are being asked questions. You only have 15 seconds to answer the questions.”

Her winning question at the Iowa state geography bee championship was: ‘What African country bordered on the east by Cote D’ Ivore has one of the world's largest national ship registries?'

The answer: Liberia.

Although Kavya did not finish in the top 10 in the national competition, she and her mom, Subha Kalathur, said it was a great experience.

"It went OK. I learned a lot," Kavya said. "It was about what I thought, but it really depends on what question you get, so it is a lot of luck. But I got to interact with other students and it was a good experience."

She said rankings were based on accumulative scores. 

""She did well, but not well enough to get into the finals," her mother said. "But her point total was the second highest ever from someone from Iowa in the history of the National Geography Bee. And this was a really good experience for her."

California eighth-grader Venkat Ranjan won the top prize.

In the Iowa competition, she won a $200 cash prize, the “National Geographic Visual Atlas of the World, 2nd Edition,” and the all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to represent Iowa in the national championship. She competed against about 100 fourth- to eighth-graders in Iowa. A total of 54 state winners now advance to the national championship.

“We are proud to have Kavya represent Iowa at the National Bee as our second female qualifier," said George Kuhter, coordinator of the Iowa Geography Bee.

She worked hard to prepare.

“I spend a lot of time on geography now. My parents and my sister help me a lot to study,” she said.

She was hoping to win the national championship, with prizes of a $50,000 college scholarship, a lifetime membership in the Society, a lifetime subscription to National Geographic magazine, and an all-expenses-paid Lindblad expedition to the Galápagos Islands aboard the National Geographic Endeavour ll.

Kavya and her family love to travel.

Subha Kalathur said she and her husband, Raj Kalathur, have lived in India and Singapore because of his job with Deere & Co. They also have traveled around the world, including on safari to Africa.

They are thrilled with Kavya's work and success.

“We are sure so proud of her,” her mother said. “Both girls are interested in geography."

Last year, their 14-year-daughter, Shveta, competed at the Iowa state geographic bee.

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