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Hastings Middle School Geography Bee finalists are pictured here. In the back row are Sam Valentine, Megan Myers, Josh Speak, Jackson Miller and Drew Street. In the middle row are Arthur DressenWall, Jack Raway, Austin DeBoom and Liam Keller. In the front is champion Leah Steding.

Leah Steding wins HMS Geography Bee

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Leah Steding likes geography. She also knows it.

Last Thursday morning, the Hastings Middle School eighth grader won the school’s Geography Bee. She beat out nine other middle school students in the competition.

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The other finalists were Austin DeBoom, Arthur DressenWall, Liam Keller, Jackson Miller, Megan Myers, Jack Raway, Josh Speak, Drew Street and Sam Valentine.

After several rounds of written and oral answers, the competition was down to Steding and DeBoom. Each supplied written answers to three questions. Steding got all of them right.

The answers were: Maine — the state where Portland is located; Chesapeake Bay – where the Potomac River empties into; and China – where the Tahla Mahan Desert is located.

“I’m very surprised,” said Steding, upon winning the contest. “And I’m happy.”

To prepare for the contest, Steding studied practice tests and maps. Her mother Mary said that she actually began studying last summer.

Geography is part of Steding’s curriculum this year and she enjoys it, she said.

As the school winner, Steding took a qualifying test Monday. The test was sent to National Geographical headquarters in Washington, D.C. If she scores one of the top 100 in the state, then she will compete in the state bee at St. Cloud State University in April. There is a small cash prize for the top three in the state and a plaque for the school.

The state winner advances to the nationals in Washington. The prize for the national winner is a $50,000 college scholarship.

At last week’s Geography Bee, the questioners were Principal Mark Zuzek and 2013 Geography Bee winner Leandra Larson. Judges were Jan Hertel, contest coordinator; and Jim Hanson, social studies teacher.

All 1,500 Hastings Middle School students participated in the written classroom round of the Geography Bee. Approximately five million students nationally take part in the Geography Bee each year.

From the classroom rounds, the top students in each grade qualified for the intermediate round. From the intermediate rounds, 10 qualified for the school championship.

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