Illinois 12-Year-Old Wins 2006 National Geography Bee

Could you locate the Cambrian Mountains on a map? Twelve-year-old Bonny Jain could and his knowledge made him the winner Wednesday of the 2006 National Geographic Bee.

The eighth-grader from Moline, Ill. won a $25,000 college scholarship by correctly naming the mountains that extend across much of Wales, from the Irish Sea to the Bristol Channel.

It was Bonny's second appearance at the national bee. Last year he came in fourth place.

His victory was the culmination of a four-year effort — the first time he entered the contest, he only got second place in his local school's geography bee.

"It feels pretty cool to have gotten up to the top of the nation from second in the school," Bonny told reporters after his win.

On stage, in banter with the bee's moderator, "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek, Bonny seemed confident, saying he only felt nervous during the final round after he missed a question about the Andaman islands — his only wrong answer. He also felt uncertain when answering a question about the Tuareg people in the African nation of Niger, but that time he was right.

Although Bonny plans to celebrate his victory by having "a huge party," he also needs to prepare for his third appearance in the national spelling bee, which starts May 31.

He was joined by his father, Rohit Jain, his mother, Beena Jain, and his 5-year-old sister, Riya Jain. His teacher Kelly Mulcahy also accompanied him.

Neeraj Sirdeshmukh, 14, from Nashua, N.H., came in second. He won a $15,000 college scholarship. Third-place contestant, Yeshwanth Kandimalla, 13, of Marietta, Ga., won a $10,000 college scholarship. The other seven finalists won $500 each.

Fifty-five participants between fifth and eighth grade came to Washington, D.C., to compete in the national bee. They represented the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Pacific Territories and the Department of Defense Dependent schools. The group was whittled down to 10 finalists during the first round of competition Tuesday.