Max Garon is a sophomore at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. He won the D.C. GeoBee three times and finished tied for seventh nationally in 2017. He traces his interest in geography to watching the 2010 FIFA World Cup and reading National Geographic books growing up. Edited excerpts of our conversation follow.
Q: What was it like competing in the national finals?
Max Garon (MG): It was everything I expected and more, honestly. Being on the stage, being read questions from Mo Rocca under the lights and in front of the audience: it was a lot of pressure but it was also a lot of fun, and the people I was competing with were great. They were friends of mine as well, and I was just happy to be up there with them.
Q: Has your GeoBee knowledge come in handy in high school?
MG: In certain history classes whenever geography comes up on a test or quiz it’s always been helpful. I also participate in a local quiz tournament called It’s Academic, and my knowledge of geography has helped me secure a spot in that and enabled me to participate in fun activities like that that I really enjoy.
Q: Did you learn any lessons from your GeoBee experience you’d like to share with students competing this year?
MG: I would say that hard work pays off if you study a lot and you know what you have to study. Also, look at it as a four- or five-year thing, and don’t be discouraged if one year or in one instance you underperform or don’t do as well as you wanted. Just look at it as a continuous effort. If you love geography and put in the work it should take you far.
Q: How do you think your life would be different had you not competed in the GeoBee in middle school?
MG: I think I would have had a lot more free time, but I don’t regret any second of the time I studied. The GeoBee is one of the greatest things I’ve been a part of. All the knowledge has helped me so much with stuff going on in class and in the broader world, and it’s helped me be more aware and more connected to other people who share that love of geography.
Q: Do you have a favorite geographic fact?
MG: I remember in sixth grade the one that got all my classmates is one of the capitals of Sri Lanka: it has a really long name, like Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte. They always said, “Max, Max, say the capital of Sri Lanka!” I would say it and they’d be like, “How do you know that?” That one usually entertained people.
This post concludes this edition of “Five Questions With a GeoBee Champion.” Registration for the 2019-2020 GeoBee is open through Jan. 24, so act fast! Title I schools are eligible for a discount on GeoBee registration. Go to NatGeoBee.org to learn more.