‘China’ puts Ramanathan in winner’s seat

by Dennis Dalman


It was a perfect case of grace-under-pressure when 11 students competed Jan. 13 in the Geography Bee at Sartell Middle School.

There was no sweating, hand-wringing or exclamations of disappointment. Instead, coolly and calmly each student answered the questions, and when they lost they didn’t look the least bit devastated. Nor did the winning students cheer or gloat. Rather, they humbly accepted their awards with calm dignity.

The winner of the Bee was sixth-grader Janagan Ramanathan, who correctly answered an obscure question having to do with an Asian country. That winning answer made him the winner, edging out competitor Connor Hacker for the championship. Those two boys were among the three finalists, along with Kobey Cofer.

Hacker, a fifth-grader, earned second place; Cofer, an eighth-grader, earned third place.

Ramanathan will soon take a written test, which will be sent to the National Geographic Society. After the tests are scored, Minnesota will have 100 contestants who will compete statewide this March at St. Cloud State University. The winner of that contest will go on to national competition in Washington, D.C. Gopi Ramanathan, the older brother of Janagan, has competed twice in the National Geographic Society Geography Bee.

The Jan. 13 event took place in the classroom of Lori Dornburg, home economics teacher and academic extension coordinator. She and Jen Richason, social studies teacher, conducted the competition, with Richason reading the questions. Sartell Middle School Principal Julie Tripp presented the awards.

Several parents attended the Bee.

The other contestants were fifth-graders Dylan Cummings, Anna Pille and Grant Schleper; sixth-grader Luc Westerling; and eighth-graders Alex Hinnenkamp, Nick Juntunen, Jenna Merrills and Jordan Och.

All but a couple questions involved the United States, and students had to name the state or geographical feature based on clues given by Richason. In the first round, each student was asked a question. In the second round, the students had to write down their answers to the same question. All students correctly answered “Colorado River.” The third round involved a map about water usage in all of the United States for which students had to interpret data on the map. Round four was another written round with the correct answer being “Pacific Ocean.” By the fifth round, an individual answer round, three of the remaining six students were eliminated, leaving Cofer, Hacker and Ramanathan to face off in the championship round. There were three questions asked in that round. All three students answered the first question correctly. On the second question, Cofer was eliminated. On the third question, Hacker’s answer was incorrect while Ramanathan’s answer (China) made him the winner.

photo by Dennis Dalman
Students ponder a map during the Jan. 13 Geography Bee at Sartell Middle School. From left to right are Grant Schleper, Jenna Merrills, Janagan Ramanathan, Anna Pille and Nick Juntunen. Not pictured are Kobey Cofer, Dylan Cummings, Connor Hacker, Alex Hinnenkamp, Jordan Och and Luc Westerling.

photo by Dennis Dalman
The winners of the Sartell Middle School Geography Bee are (left to right) Kobey Cofer, third place; Janagan Ramanathan, first place; and Connor Hacker, second place. Ramanathan will now take a written test to see if he qualifies as one of 100 students in Minnesota to compete for state. The winner of that Bee will then go on to national competition in Washington, D.C.

photo by Dennis Dalman
Sartell Middle School Principal Julie Tripp presents a trophy to Kobey Cofer, third-place winner of the school’s Geography Bee.


Dennis Dalman

Dennis Dalman


Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.
Dennis Dalman

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