WASHINGTON (AP/WJLA) - An eighth-grader from Northern Virginia has outlasted nine other young scholars to win the National Geographic Bee.
Akhil Rekulapelli of Sterling, Virginia finished fourth in last year's bee. This year, the 14-year-old answered all three questions right in a one-on-one showdown with the youngest of the 10 finalists, 11-year-old Ameya Mujumdar of Tampa, Florida.
The decisive question: What African country is building a new capital called Oyala in the rainforest, 65 miles east of the current capital, Bala?
The answer: Equatorial Guinea.
Akhil receives a $50,000 scholarship, a trip to the Galapagos Islands with his family and a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society.
Akhil's proud parents watched from the audience.
"I've worked so hard over four years to get to this level, and I was just so happy," he said.
But getting to this level took years of preparation.
"By the time I was four, I think I knew all the state capitals and started from there," said Akhil.
The eighth-grader from Stone Hill Middle School enjoys poring over maps, learning where rivers meet seas, and most important, focusing on using knowledge for the greater good.
"I think that geography raises awareness about where people are in need and how you can help the world," he said.
Akhil wants to eventually become a physician and work with “Doctors Without Borders.” His mother calls him a gift.
"A funny thing is he says, 'Mom I didn't see you cry,' and I said, 'Yeah I was crying -- believe me I was crying. I was just hiding my tears,'" said Swapna Rekulapelli.
"I think that the Geography Bee is not only a competition, but a way to inspire people to learn about the world more...If everyone had at least a good understanding of geography, the world would be a better place," said Akhil.