After competing in the national finals of the National Geographic Bee last month in Washington DC and finishing a remarkable 12th place in the nation (out of over 2.5 million students who enter preliminary rounds), you might think that Lukas Koutsoukos, an eighth grader at Middlebrook, deserved a well-earned rest. However, after a brief recovery he hit the books again to study for the National History Bee, happening this weekend.
At the Geography Bee he faced a grilling that involved writing a comprehensive essay followed by a verbal round of ten exceedingly difficult questions designed to whittle the original field of 54 down to 10 finalists who would appear in the televised grand finale. Alas Lukas did not make the top 10, narrowly missing out and finishing just two spots below.
“It is an amazing achievement,” says 6th grade Middlebrook team leader and social studies teacher John Priest. “He represented Wilton and the state of Connecticut as a kind young man with great sportsmanship who stayed to cheer on his friends from around the country.”
For Lukas, the Geography Bee is only one of three competitions in which he reached the national level this year. He spent an earlier weekend in May in Chicago at the national final of the Quiz Bowl, a competition run by the National Academic Quiz Tournament LLC. This weekend he heads back to Chicago to compete in the National History Bee.
Normally cool as a cucumber, Lukas says he was a little more nervous than usual at the National Geography Bee.
“Considering that this was the first and only time I would compete at the National Geographic Bee–you have to be eighth grade or younger to qualify–I realized that I had to do well. The written section of the preliminaries wasn’t very tense as compared to the much harder oral rounds. After I, and most of the state winners in my room got the first question wrong, the anxiety increased exponentially.”
Lukas has loved meeting players from across the country, and he often sees many familiar faces at a new competition.
“Some of the best memories I will take away from the Geo Bee competition include bowing on the stage during the finals, and having fun at the National Zoo with state winners from South Dakota, Missouri, Florida, Louisiana, Indiana, and others,” he says.
Lukas got started in the Geography Bee in 4th grade and credits his older brother, Alex Koutsoukos, with giving him the idea that he wanted to try it out too. “My brother competed in the geography bee when I was little and it looked like a lot of fun.” Lukas also credits his third-grade teacher for igniting his love of Geography. “Having a teacher interested in the subject is very important,” he adds.
What has he learned from preparing for the competition? “From studying, I’ve learned an insane amount of geography that they don’t teach in school–places, rivers, etc.; from taking part, however, I’ve realized firstly how hard the national competition actually is, with rounds about aerial cities and ecological choice, and how fun it is to hang out with those who share the same title I do and were competing for the same cup I was.”
As one door closes, another door opens and the studying continues. Next it is back to Chicago for the History Bee national finals. History is Luka’s favorite subject and he hopes to do well in this year’s competition.
“I’m studying as much as I can–reading question packets, practicing with questions, and looking through Wikipedia. In addition, I’m hoping to do well in the iGeo (International Geography Bee) mini-tournament also held at the same time, which should be very fun. I will face some tough competition–some of the Geo Bee state winners (including the one from Florida) will be competing against me!” Lukas says.
What next–an appearance on Jeopardy, perhaps? Lukas is characteristically modest and self-effacing about the idea of national quiz fame, however with his passion for knowledge and incredible dedication to learning, the sky is the limit.