After bringing the New Jersey National Geographic Geography Bee championship home to South Brunswick last week, 8th grader Siddharth Kurella has his sights set on the National Championship. who qualified for the competition after they earned high scores on a written exam.
"I can hardly believe I won myself," Siddarth said. "It feels pretty good and I'm really proud."
The competition had some tense moments for Siddarth and his family. During the bee, 20 competitors scored 8 out of 8 questions correctly, so the kids had to battle in a tie-breaker to advance to the top ten.
"It was pretty intense and I was up there for awhile," Siddarth said. "We all got all of the questions right, but eventually the other students were eliminated and I finally got to the top two."
Competing head to head with runner-up Kevin Pang, of Stewartsville Middle School, the two finalists were each asked three questions. Siddarth then swept the round and South Brunswick had it's own state geography champ.
"I was feeling okay before the competition. I thought I would get into the top ten, maybe even third place or so," he said. "I didn't think I could win. I guess I thought about winning, but I wasn't sure if I could do it."
For Siddarth's mother Lakshmi, the victory brought a feeling of pure elation to the family.
"It was just so great, one of the best moments we've ever had," she said. "We're so excited. It was just one of those very happy moments."
Siddarth will now go on to the National Competition in Washington D.C. May 22-24, where he has a chance to win the grand prize of a $25,000 scholarship and trip to the Galapagos Islands.
"I just want to give it my best shot. Just try my best and see where it leads," Siddarth said. "I'm going to have to look more in-depth at everything and make sure I look at all the little things."