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BYU Students Win National Geography Bowl

May 15, 2023

A photo of the BYU Geography team holding their awards

It was a moment of pride when the team with two BYU students won the World Geography Bowl competition in Denver on March 25, 2023. BYU geography professor Ruth Kerry was the coach for the team and they were joined by students from the Air Force Academy, Denver University, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The World Geography Bowl is sponsored by the American Association of Geographers and is played at two levels — the regional competition and then the national competition. BYU students won the regional competition in October 2022 and thus advanced to the national competition.

“After many experiences of advancing to a regional geography competition only to fall short of first place, it felt incredibly satisfying to finally win,” says Kyle Davis, a BYU student on the winning team.

The other BYU student, Abner Hardy, shares, “Dr. Kerry was helpful in organizing these trips to the AAG conferences for BYU students to both present research and compete in the World Geography Bowl. I heard BYU students hadn't attended the AAG regional conference in several years, and thus hadn't participated in the bowl for several years. It's thanks to Dr. Kerry and our department chair Dr. Olsen that there was a push to have us participate this year, which I am grateful for.”

When asked how he prepared for the competition, Hardy shared, “Technically, I've been preparing my whole life! My love of maps earned me the nickname ‘Atlas Boy’ in fifth grade because I'd carry an atlas around in elementary and middle school to read during free time. In the last several months, I did some geography trivia online and studied some atlases, but most of the preparation just comes from a lifelong love of geography.”

In the competition, each team of six people plays one round against another team. The round is broken up into two sets of questions: a toss-up set and a team set. The toss-up questions are first and every participant has a buzzer in front of them they can hit at any point while the question is being read. There are about 10 toss-up questions.

The questions asked at the World Geography Bowl are a lot more in depth than just where certain countries are located. Questions range from matching rivers, naming two countries based on just a line drawn for the border they share, and even questions on spice production.

After the toss-up questions there are two team questions. These almost always involve asking for a list of something. For example, "Name all of the countries that the equator runs through.” Each team must then come up with a list of as many correct answers as they can, but they can only give the host their top six. One team gets to answer first, and they get points for every correct answer from their list of six. If they miss any, their answer is considered incomplete and the other team can get points by providing any of the missing correct answers from their list.

Points are earned as a team and individually. During the toss-up round, everyone competes to answer the most questions correctly to earn individual points that count toward your team total. Usually, the two teams with the most collective points advance to the final round, where one of the teams will become the overall champions of the World Geography Bowl.

Congratulations to these two winning geography students!

A picture of Kyle Davis

Kyle Davis is a graduating senior in geography and will begin a geography master's degree program at the University of Kansas this fall. He plans to obtain a PhD and research and teach on this subject at the university level. His dream is to join the BYU geography department. Kyle’s research interests include migration, electoral geography, and changing demographics. He enjoys hiking the mountains of Utah — they will be sorely missed in Kansas.

A photo of Abner Hardy

Abner Hardy is a junior in geography with a major in geospatial science and technology. He is from Meridian, Idaho and will be participate in a Chinese Flagship program this summer, where he’ll take geography classes in Chinese and do an internship in Taiwan or China for a year. Abner plans to pursue a PhD in geography in Hong Kong upon his graduation in 2025.