Oh Em Geography Bee

Freshman wins National Geography Bee


Submitted by Narayana Janga

Freshman Nihar Janga takes picture with Governor Greg Abbott after winning National Geography Bee.

Kyra Bachick and Isabel Young

A drop of sweat trickled down his face as the lights blared and the audience stared. His knees trembled as he walked up to the microphone. It was time to answer the final question. 

Freshman Nihar Janga met Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, last Tuesday after winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee and National Geographic Bee.

“It’s so astonishing that people do these things in our state because we’re so privileged to be living in a great state like Texas,” Janga said. “We’re lucky we don’t live in some poor areas of the world that don’t have the resources that we do. So I think meeting someone that takes care of our state like that is pretty great.”

The National Geographic Bee is a nationwide competition that promotes geographic literacy. The contest starts in the classroom with each student being quizzed on world geography.

“I started in sixth grade when my middle school teachers, Miss Bettencourt & Miss Wadsworth, encouraged me for the geography bee,” Janga said. “I worked really hard and won in fifth grade. Just having that dedication and focus taught me a lot.”

After winning the 2016 National Scripps Spelling Bee in Maryland, Janga was inspired to continue competing and entered into the geography bee. 

“My sister competed in the Spelling Bee before,” Janga said. “I saw what she was doing and I wanted to do that also. That’s kind of where my baseline started. I kept studying and learning how to build confidence on the stage.”

As a high school student, Janga’s geography knowledge gives him a leg up in class. While the subject comes easily, he still actively participates. 

“He asks questions, which is good,” geography teacher Ed Wolkind said. “I think he may know the answer to the question, but he asks it anyway and helps out the other students, which is pretty cool.”

While at home, Janga looked through multiple resources, including atlases and magazines, to learn more about different world cultures. 

“I realized that there was a lot to learn about the world because English collects from a lot of different languages,” Janga said. “Then I realized that geography could help me learn about culture too.”

Janga’s at-home study sessions still couldn’t prepare him for the pressure of being on national television. 

“[He] worked hard all these years because he had to give it a shot,” Janga’s dad Narayana Janga said. “[He] was a little shaky the first two rounds. Then he just started doing what he did at the spelling bee, and he overcame that.”