Though the prelims went fine, in the
semifinals, Karan teetered on the edge of
failure, and scraped through partly on the
fact that a correct answer he had given
was deemed wrong, reviewed and the
record set straight ( The question: What
metal-bearing mineral is found in the
Mesabi Range of Minnesota? The answer:
iron ore. Karan answered taconite, the primary kind of iron ore found there, and
things were settled in Karan's favor after
he sought a review).
According to Manisha, “It was really
brave of him to speak for himself with the
judges and confidently say 'My answer is
correct.' I don't think it is easy for any kid
to do that.”
Karan says he is thankful for advice from
Dan Beaupre, the Bee's executive director.
“Before the competition, he told me to
stay calm,” says Karan. “He said if I stay
calm, I can make it to the top.”
When the competition was whittled
down to 10 contestants, Karan stumbled
again on a question he said he knew the
The third question turned out to be a
question about the US, which is almost
unheard of at the Bee. So when asked
which river ran by the Coconino plateau,
instead of answering the Colorado river,
Karan answered 'Amazon.'
“I was veering towards the bottom of the
board (and) had to climb back up,” he
The final round consisted of writing
down the answers to seven questions, in
which Karan was pitted against Shriya
Yarlagadda, 11, a spunky sixth-grader
from Michigan who got six of them right.
But only Karan got the first one right,
about the arm of the Black Sea into which
the Kalmius river flowed and bordering
which the city of Mariupol was situated.
Karan wrote the correct answer, Sea of
Azov, and was the winner.
Shriya, from Grand Blanc East Middle
School in Grand Blanc, a suburb of Flint,
Michigan, cheered him on.
The third place went to Sojas Wagle,
13, an eighth-grader from Southwest
Junior High School in Springdale,
“It reminds me of the hare and tortoise
race,” says Manisha. “He was a slow and
steady climber. Eventually, he made it to
Karan loves math, science and technol-
ogy but has not decided between a career
in science and working for National
Geographic, whose offices he found end-
As the winner, he gets a $50,000 college scholarship, a lifetime membership
to National Geographic and a trip to the
Galapagos. Shriya, at second place, gets a
$25,000 college scholarship. Sojas got a
$10,000 college scholarship.
Now, though Karan admits he is on “top
of the world,” there is homework to catch
up with, mandatory state exams and the
Scholastic Aptitude Test to prepare for. So
he does not time to celebrate yet.
“Maybe after my exams are done,” he said.
The World is his Oyster
The 10 finalists. Top row from left, Patrick Taylor of Iowa, Abhinav Karthikeyan of Maryland, Sojas Wagle of Arkansas, Karan Menon of New Jersey, Nicholas Monahan of Idaho. Bottom row from left, Tejas Badgujar of Pennsylvania, Shriya Yarlagadda of Michigan, Shreyas Varathan of Minnesota, Kapil Nathan of Alabama and Lucy Chae of Massachusetts.
Champion Karan Menon receives his gold medal from National Geographic President and CEO Gary E Knell.