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The winner ...A gain. Neil Patrick Villamora held his spot as geography champion of Yokosuka Middle School for the second year running Thursday. Last year, Villamora was the DODDS winner; he went to Washington, D.C. to compete in the national geography bee.

The winner ...A gain. Neil Patrick Villamora held his spot as geography champion of Yokosuka Middle School for the second year running Thursday. Last year, Villamora was the DODDS winner; he went to Washington, D.C. to compete in the national geography bee. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

The winner ...A gain. Neil Patrick Villamora held his spot as geography champion of Yokosuka Middle School for the second year running Thursday. Last year, Villamora was the DODDS winner; he went to Washington, D.C. to compete in the national geography bee.

The winner ...A gain. Neil Patrick Villamora held his spot as geography champion of Yokosuka Middle School for the second year running Thursday. Last year, Villamora was the DODDS winner; he went to Washington, D.C. to compete in the national geography bee. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

Angela Webb holds out a tentative answer. The Yokosuka Middle School seventh grader finished second among about 30 students who matched wits on world geography and culture.

Angela Webb holds out a tentative answer. The Yokosuka Middle School seventh grader finished second among about 30 students who matched wits on world geography and culture. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL Base, Japan — The world was Neil Patrick Villamora’s — and all it took was a map.

It was love at first sight, explained the Yokosuka Middle School eighth-grader.

“The first time I saw a map, I was like, ‘What is this piece of art?’ I was in first grade. Then I got a talking globe and an atlas,” said Villamora. From that point on, he was gaga for geography.

Villamora, now 13, won first place in the YMS’s National Geographic Bee on Thursday. Nothing new there — Villamora was the school champion last year.

Angela Webb and Kevin Holz gave Villamora a run for the title, along with 26 other students who participated in the intense two-hour competition. The preliminary contest went six rounds with questions like: Which three U.S. states have entirely straight borders? To which country did Spain cede the island of Haiti in 1697? What is the capital city of Slovenia?

“You might think you’re nervous watching in the audience, but I was even more scared sitting near the judges,” Webb said. “I started thinking they could smell my fear.”

The National Geographic Bee is for fourth- through eighth-grade classrooms throughout the United States, in the five U.S. territories and in the Department of Defense Dependents Schools.

School winners advance to a regional written test (the top 10 in DODDS will take the test) and the student with the best score goes to Washington, D.C., on May 23-24 to compete for a national title and a $25,000 college scholarship. “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek moderates the final round.

“No pressure or anything,” but Yokosuka Middle School has been the DODDS representative in the national contest for two years running, teacher Tonya Huffer pointed out Thursday. If Villamora wins this year, it’ll be a three-peat.

But geography isn’t just for sport, says Yokosuka Middle School teacher Dale Duncan. The point of the competition is to foster an interest in geography. Most kids just think geography is about maps and they’re wrong, he said.

“Geography is culture and history and why we do things,” Duncan said. “It’s how we think globally.”

He warns his students that Jay Leno of “The Tonight Show” could stick a microphone in their faces any day to demonstrate how awful American kids are at geography. They better know that the country above the United States is Canada, Duncan joked.

Seventh-grader Barbara Reichart liked Thursday’s world geography questions about Japan, she said. She definitely had an advantage there, she said.

“I got a question on origami,” Reichart said. “But most of the questions weren’t like that.”


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