As a young boy, Krish Patel would sit on the floor as his mother drank her morning coffee and read The Post and Courier. He became especially curious about the maps on the weather page. Soon, he knew cities and states, as well as rivers.
This boy loved to learn, and his mom, Elliza, made sure his appetite for information was never satisfied. She did, however, quit giving him the latest edition of the newspaper. He so mangled and crumpled it in his desire to locate and learn new places, it was decided that young Krish would have to learn from a day-old paper.
That's how the story is told in the Patel house.
Recently, now 14 years old, Krish won the state geography bee for the fourth consecutive year. The Pinewood Prep eighth-grader never missed a question at the state competition and will represent South Carolina for yet another year at the National Geographic Bee in Washington, D.C.
Last year, Krish finished in 11th place. This year, even though there's a little pressure, he feels more comfortable with the process.
During his first year at the nationals, he noticed two things very quickly: The questions were all very hard, and the other kids were all very smart.
Fifty-four participants will be narrowed to 10 finalists. In a humble, considerate and understated manner, Krish will tell you he expects to be among the finalists, and you believe him.
Where is that?
How many of us can even read a map? Do you even know the general whereabouts of a country on the continent of Africa or a river that runs through it?
National Geographic sponsors the geography bee.
Their survey of 18- to 24-year-olds after Hurricane Katrina revealed that one-third of the respondents could not locate Louisiana on a map of the United States.
It's pretty clear, a lot of us don't know where we're going or how to get there.
That's not the case with Krish Patel.
He spends hours and hours reading his atlas, researching online and answering practice questions.
Current events, political upheavals, discoveries ... those topics are all fair game.
This was the winning question at the state finals: What sea in the Arctic Ocean separates the Taymyr Peninsula from the Novaya Zemla archipelago?
Are you kidding me?
Contestants are given 12 seconds to respond. He didn't need that long to write down the correct answer: the Kara Sea.
Krish's thirst for knowing and learning stuff is ama- zing. But he's no one-trick pony.
He plays on the varsity soccer and swim teams. Pinewood Prep also recently won the state Quiz Bowl and Krish was the captain.
It wouldn't surprise me if some of Krish's friends nicknamed him GPS or Mapquest. His family moved to Summerville in 2003. His dad, Rakesh, is a data analyst. His study partner and mom, Elliza, also enjoys discovering new things.
The last couple of weeks before the competition, Krish will study seven hours a day. He doesn't cram the information for the short term, he learns it and knows it and most of all, totally embraces the entire process.
There's an outside chance this smart young man might just be more caring than he is intelligent. Last year, after finishing 11th, he didn't mope or cry on his mother's shoulder. Krish immediately started helping a competitor from Oregon prepare for the final day by asking him questions. That friend finished fifth overall.
Good luck next month, Krish. You're making it easier and easier for folks to know who you are and where you're from - and they won't need a map to find you.
Reach Warren Peper at 937-5577 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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