Homeschooler Wins National Geographic Bee

James Williams, a home-schooled 14-year-old from Vancouver, Wash., won the 15th annual National Geographic Bee (search) on Wednesday.

Williams captured the title by knowing that Goa in India was formerly a colony of Portugal.

That answer gave him a tiebreaker victory over Dallas Simons, a 13-year-old from Nashville, Tenn.

Placing third in the competition was Sean Rao, 14, from Hubertus, Wis.

Williams said being home-schooled (search) was a big help in the competition because it gave him extra time to concentrate on things he enjoys, like studying geography.

Williams made the trip to the competition here after participating in a science bowl competition in Ohio and later in the year he goes on to another competition as a member of the Washington-Oregon science bowl team.

The top three were among 5 million students from across the country who took part in local contests that narrowed the field down to 55 local champions for the finals in Washington.

First prize is a $25,000 college scholarship, a lifetime subscription to National Geographic magazine and a week at SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Adventure Camps (search). Second and third prizes are scholarships of $15,000 and $10,000.

Joining the three winners in the contest's 10 finalists were:

--Jacob Felts, 14, of Highland High School in Hardy, Ark., who also represented his state last year. Jacob enjoys country music and would like to be a political scientist or ambassador.

--Kathryn Prose, 13, of D'Evelyn Junior High in Denver, who enjoys opera and studies Mandarin and Latin.

--Thomas Meyerson, 13, of Blessed Sacrament School in Washington, D.C., who also represented the capital city in the contest last year. He's a Boy Scout, plays saxophone and basketball and would like to be a stand-up comedian.

--David Goldman, 14, of Nova Southeastern University School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who tutors in Hebrew school and would like a career in politics.

--Christopher Butler, 13, of Shaker Heights Middle School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, who collects license plates and composes music.

--Samuel Brandt, 11, of Roosevelt Middle School in Eugene, Ore. Samuel plays trombone, sings in the choir and would like to be a broadcaster one day.

--Karan Takhar, 12, of The Gordon School in East Providence, R.I. He plays piano, enjoys reading and would like to be an entrepreneur and introduce new products and ideas.

Nearly half this year's contestants -- 25 -- are 14 years old and some are as young as 11. They came to Washington from every state plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Pacific territories and military schools overseas.

Six of the contestants had been to the finals before, including Deborah Beihl, a 13-year-old home schooler from Saluda, S.C. Deborah's appearance carried on a family tradition. She also represented her state last year. Her brother David won the bee in 1999 and another brother, Thomas, represented South Carolina in 2001.