- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Caitlin Snaring put girls back on the map yesterday.

The eighth-grader from Redmond, Wash., became the first girl in 16 years to win the National Geographic Bee and only the second girl to win in the contest’s 19-year history.

“It’s amazing,” said Caitlin, 14. “I knew I could do it. I wanted a girl winner this year.”

Caitlin beat 54 other contestants representing the 50 states, the District and U.S. territories. The field also included five other girls, all competing for a grand prize of a $25,000 scholarship and lifetime membership to the National Geographic Society.

Caitlin was back this year after placing 12th last year. She won the two-day competition — moderated by Alex Trebek, host of TV’s “Jeopardy!” — without getting a single question wrong.

She won by knowing Hue is the city that is divided by a river of the same name and was the imperial capital of Vietnam for more than a century.

Caitlin, who is considering a career as an archeologist or a diplomat, said students looking to accomplish what she did should study hard — but have fun.

“You have to be happy about what you’re doing, and it will benefit you forever,” she said.

Kansas state champion Suneil Iyer won the second-place prize of a $15,000 scholarship. This was the second time Suneil, a 12-year-old seventh-grader from Olathe, Kan., participated in the contest. He placed fourth last year.

“I was more nervous because I’ve been here, so there’s more pressure to do well,” he said afterward.

Mark Arildsen, a 13-year-old seventh-grader from Nashville, Tenn., placed third, winning a $10,000 scholarship.

The preliminary round for the fifth- to eighth-graders was Tuesday, with the top 10 finalists advancing to the final rounds yesterday.

Ten of the 55 finalists were repeat state winners, including seventh-grader Benjamin Geyer, 13, who attends the British School of Washington and had represented the District in the bee the past two years.

Though he was the first to be eliminated yesterday, Benjamin was in good spirits and said he will be taking a break from studying for a while.

“I could have done better,” he said. “I’ve still got next year to fall back on.”

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