TRAVERSE CITY -- The whole world is fair territory in the National Geographic Bee.
The annual competition is an educational program of the National Geographic Society designed to encourage the teaching and study of geography. Thousands of students in fourth through eighth grade across the United States pit their knowledge against each other in school and state competitions with hopes of reaching the national level bee in May.
Two local teenagers finished in the top 10 in the 2014 Michigan Geographic Bee on April 4, and one narrowly missed the chance to compete in the national bee in Washington, D.C.
Matthew Failor, a seventh-grade student at Traverse City East Middle School, finished second out of 100 kids from across the state who qualified to compete. William Kalajian, an eighth-grade student at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Middle School, finished 10th.
"To realize that Matthew and William were up there together representing Traverse City, and to see the talent up there, you feel so proud," Kalajian's mother Becky Kalajian said. "I love the fact that two boys from Traverse City, which is a town that is quite sports-oriented, performed at such a high level in such a niche educational corner. It was all their mind."
Participants need to have a grasp of a world full of facts and figures to successfully navigate the bee.
"Basically everything," William Kalajian said.
Questions range in topics from capitol cities to history to geology to weather. There's no telling what kind of question might pop up in each round.
"I was nervous the entire time," Failor said.
Kalajian said he made it through to the top 10 by the skin of his teeth. There were 14 students vying for the 10 spots that qualify for the bee's final round. Kalajian and another student went back and forth on eight sudden-death questions before Kalajian knew an answer the other student didn't.