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Leandra Larson wins HMS geography bee championship

Geography Bee champion Leandra Larson is pictured with her parents Dirk Larson and Kim Phan. (Star Gazette photo by Jane Lightbourn)1 / 2
The 10 finalists in the Hastings Middle School Geography Bee are pictured here. In the front row from left to right are Jack Raway, Jack Carlson, Cameron Hosler, Arthur Dressenwall and Leah Steding. In the back row are Krista Gomez, Alana Ritt, Leandra Larson, Levi O'Tool and Nate Stockman. (Star Gazette photo by Jane Lightbourn)2 / 2

Leandra Larson said she was "surprised" when she won the Hastings Middle School Geography Bee last Thursday morning.

"I thought Krista (Gomez) would win -- she came in second last year," said Larson. Gomez also finished as the runner-up this year.

As the two finalists this year, Larson and Gomez each answered the same three written questions about countries, lakes, parks and trails. Larson had all three right; Gomez missed one.

Larson's father Dirk helped her prepare for this year's Geography Bee, with the assistance of a road atlas. They usually worked together every other day.

Larson enjoys geography and had the class last year as a seventh grader. Next year, eighth-grade students at the middle school will take the class due to curriculum changes.

"I think it is fascinating," said Larson.

The Geography Bee is sponsored by National Geographic Society and is open for students in fourth to eighth grades. All 1,500 Hastings Middle School students participated in the classroom round. From that round, the top students in each grade qualified for the intermediate round, which included both written and oral questions.

From the intermediate round , the 10 finalists were selected - Jack Carlson, Arthur Dresenwall, Krista Gomez, Cameron Hosler, Leandra Larson, Levi O'Tool, Jack Raway, Alana Rift, Leah Steding and Nate Stockman.

"We had 10 extremely qualified kids in this final round," said Jan Hertel, seventh grade social studies teacher/Geography Bee coordinator.

The questioners for the Geography Bee were Principal Mark Zuzek and Nick McGrath, last year's Geography Bee winner. Hertel and Jim Hanson, a seventh grade social studies teacher, were the judges.

Next up for Larson is a qualifying test of about 70 questions, which is sent to National Geographic headquarters in Washington D.C. If she scores one of the top 100 in the state, she will participate in the state bee at St. Cloud this spring.