Ask 14-year-old John Yatsko what it takes to win the Arizona Geographic Bee, and he won’t hesitate to tell you.
"You have to know everything about everything," the eighth-grader at Tempe’s McKemy Middle School said. "You can’t study enough for it."
And you really can’t study enough if you’re trying, as John is, to win your second straight state geographic bee championship. So the champ’s inch-thick geography study guide is well-worn, the corners of each page bent from hours and hours of reading and learning about national parks, rivers, state capitals, ocean currents — or, as John says, "everything about everything."
John is one of 102 students statewide in fourth through eighth grades who will compete Friday in the Arizona Geographic Bee at Arizona State University. The state champion will represent Arizona in the National Geographic Bee in May in Washington, D.C.
John’s mother, Chris Huppert, and his teacher, Mindy Udall, will be in the audience to cheer him on, just as they were for last year’s state and national competitions.
"I’m always a basket case," his mother said. "I can’t breathe every time he’s asked a question."
Questions such as: Which South American capital city is located on the slopes of the Pichincha volcano? Answer: Quito, Ecuador.
Question: According to plate tectonics, one tectonic plate sometimes slides or dives beneath a converging tectonic plate. What is the term for this process? Answer: Subduction.
Students who survive eight rounds of questions will advance to the final round.
To prepare, John has been studying geography at least an hour a day, poring over his study guide, maps, encyclopedias and other books. And he doesn’t mind one bit.
"I like geography. It’s just fascinating," he said. But he admitted that not all 14-year-olds feel this way. "My friends think I’m pretty crazy."
The National Geographic Bee was started by the National Geographic Society in 1989 in response to concerns about the lack of geographic knowledge among young people in the United States.
The state champion will win an all-expenses-paid trip to the nation’s capital for the national competition.
For more information about the National Geographic Bee, visit