Seventh-grader Vishal Sareddy knows his geography.
The Riverwatch Middle School student knows it so well, in fact, he is currently in Washington, D.C. competing in the 29th annual National Geographic Geography Bee, which runs May 14-17.
“He’s a good geography guy,” said Sareddy’s coach, Trey Frilot. “Being his sponsor for [Riverwatch’s] club, I’m really excited and proud and just in some ways kind of in awe of how well he did and how well he’s doing.
“His ability to win state and go represent our whole state at the national level is really impressive.”
On Friday, March 31, Sareddy was one of more than 4,600 students across the nation and U.S. territories to compete in their respective state competitions, which was held in Milledgeville for Georgia students.
Though the competition required participants to be knowledegable about physical geography, questions also focused on culture, ethnicity, world heritage and migration, among other social science topics.
There, he won first place, which advanced him, along with 53 other students nationwide, to the national competition.
While Frilot said he did not have updates on Sareddy’s success at the national level due to it being taped for later viewing on the National Geographic television channel, he said the state competition was a nail-biter.
“Vishal was in the top 10,” Frilot said. “He got one of the questions wrong, but they basically have a couple of rounds where if you get one wrong, you’re OK, and then he got the rest of them correct.
“The guy that he was in the finals with had gotten everything correct, so they got down to the final three questions, and basically whoever gets the best out of three [wins]. The guy he went against lost one of those questions and Vishal got all three of those correct, so he had a little stumble early on but then he did great from there on.”
The bee, which is held annually, runs in several phases, Frilot said.
First, students must win their local competition, which is held at the school level.
Winners then must take an online test that determines whether they will qualify to be one of the top 100 students to compete in the state bee.
“He qualified for that and then they had all 100 people who are involved [go through] preliminary rounds and they get from 100 down to 10,” Frilot said. “The final 10 are on stage, basically in a lecture hall-full of people, and they ask them all these questions and it’s basically like spelling bee style.
“The final two have three questions and whoever gets the most right of those three wins.”
Students from more than 10,000 schools across the country competed in this year’s local-level bee, according to National Geographic’s website.
Frilot said Riverwatch has about 35 students who participate in the school’s geography club, which was started three years ago by Ward Prather, an eighth grade science teacher.
Frilot, an eighth grade social studies teacher, said he got involved soon after, which opened his eyes to just how talented Forsyth’s students are.
“We’re really excited,” he said, “just real proud of [Sareddy].”
National Geographic will air the final round of the national championship at 8 p.m. Friday, May 19 and later on public television stations.