Newcastle crowns its geography bee champ
November 26, 2013
By Christina Corrales-Toy
As a fourth-grader competing against fifth-graders, one might call Newcastle Elementary School student Pravir Chugh an underdog in the school’s annual geography bee.
If you knew how long he prepared for the competition, though, you wouldn’t be surprised that he took first place in the Nov. 22 contest.
“I studied a long time, at least two to three years,” the charismatic fourth-grader said after his big victory.
Pravir bested nine of his classmates to win the school’s 2013 geography bee, answering a series of questions taken directly from the National Geographic Society.
He and fifth-grader Allison Constantini survived the first rounds, pitting the two in a final showdown.
Allison came into the competition with experience. She was a top-10 finalist in last year’s contest.
“The experience definitely helped a little bit,” she said, “and I really hoped that it wouldn’t be like last year, when I got out in the first round.”
Still, she admitted she was nervous, and who could blame her as she stood on the Newcastle Elementary stage in front of an audience filled with classmates and contestant family members.
“Deep breaths, just take deep breaths,” Newcastle Principal Marla Newton told the 10 anxious contestants after each round.
As if the pressure wasn’t enough, last year’s champion Nathan Jackson made a surprise appearance, coming from Maywood Middle School to witness the 2013 competition.
After moving past the Newcastle contest in 2012, Nathan qualified as a state semifinalist and competed against kids across the state in April.
“I just really wanted to watch and see how the kids did this year,” he said.
Under the reigning champion’s watchful eye, Pravir and Allison were ultimately the last ones standing; and just as Nathan did a year ago, the two had to go to a tiebreaker to determine the winner.
Pravir took the title when he correctly identified Ukraine as the country that shares an industrial area known as the Donets Basin with Russia.
The fourth-grader had a look of shock when he was named the winner, and he promised to come back next year to defend his title.
“If you have a love for geography, you should go into a geography bee and test your knowledge there,” he said.
Pravir will now have an opportunity to take a written test, with a chance to qualify for the state championships.
The other competitors were Owen Mystkowski, Hunter Scheppat, Ally Tribble, Leon Bahn, Andrew Tremel, Troy Spurlock, Sam Bhatt and Grace Beal.