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Siblings take first, second place in geography bee

Geography bee winner Shelly Schmitt (eighth grade) prepares to write down her answer to a question during the championship round of St. Anne Catholic School's annual National Geographic Geography Bee.1 / 3
Sixth-grader Ben Schmitt won second place in the geography bee. Pictured, he prepares to answer a question during the bee.2 / 3
The ten geography bee contestants were selected from fourth through eighth grade. The two students who scored highest on a special qualification quiz were selected to represent their grade in the geography bee. Pictured (from left) are social studies teacher Michelle Rochel (reading a question for the contestants), Riley McGurran (fifth grade), Abbey Skramstad (fourth grade), Ben Schmitt (sixth grade), Andrew Chambers (fourth grade), Marshall Hayes (sixth grade), Shelly Schmitt (eighth grade), Jackson St...3 / 3

For more than 20 years, St. Anne Catholic School has been holding a geography bee each year. The bee is a part of the National Geographic Geography Bee, and the winner has a chance to continue on to participate in the National Geographic Geography Bee. The national winner receives a $25,000 scholarship, said Michelle Rochel, St. Anne's fifth through eighth grade social studies teacher.

This year's local bee was held on Jan. 14 in the St. Anne's gymnasium.

Rochel said students from fourth through eighth grade were eligible to compete in the bee. The students were given a qualifying test with 49 questions in seven categories. The two children with the highest scores in each class represented their grades in the competition.

"I'm always, always very proud of them when they can make it to the top 10," Rochel said. "It's a big accomplishment for each of them."

Rochel said the geography bee is important because it gets students to use their geography skills and helps those with a talent for the subject take advantage of their skills.

This year's winner was eighth-grader Shelly Schmitt. Schmitt was among the three finalists narrowed down from the top 10 who began the bee together. The three finalists were Shmitt; her brother Ben Schmitt (sixth grade), who received second place; and fifth-grader Gracie Hayes, who came in third.

Also competing were Riley McGurran (fifth grade), Abbey Skramstad (fourth grade), Andrew Chambers (fourth grade), Marshall Hayes (sixth grade), Jackson Struemke (eighth grade), Burke Meader (seventh grade) and Daniel Bierbruauer (seventh grade).

Gretta Stark
Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.
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