RCDS spellingRumson Country Day School eighth grader Cole DeMeulemeester (at right, with runner up Chester English of Locust) led the field in the annual RCDS Geographic Bee, a win that moves the Red Bank resident one step closer to a $50,000 College Scholarship.

By KRISTIN ARRAMBIDE, Rumson Country Day School

In the end, it was the answer “Chesapeake Bay” to the question “The Potomac River empties into what large bay?” that won gold for eighth grader Cole DeMeulemeester ’14 (Red Bank) during the final moments of the exciting RCDS Geography Bee held on Monday, December 9, 2013. Cole battled it out with runner-up seventh grader Chester English (Locust) in a packed house school event.

Winning the school-level competition of the National Geographic Bee gives Cole the chance to compete for a $50,000 college scholarship. The school-level Bee, at which students answered oral questions on geography, was the first round in the 26th annual National Geographic Bee. This year’s Bee is sponsored by Google.

RCDS spelling BStudents do not necessarily prepare for the bee; rather, they compete in grade level bees. The following students won their respective grade level bees and represented each grade: fifth — Ty Whittemore (Rumson); sixth — Gannon Carroll (Rumson), Zach Petersen (Neptune), Louisa “Lulu” Lyle (Fair Haven); Chester English (Locust), Elias Economou (Monmouth Beach) and Katerina Chrysanthopoulos (Oceanport); and eighth — Cameron Cummings (Rumson), Cole DeMeulemeester (Red Bank) and Quinn Trent (Rumson).

Throughout the competition, the audience held their breath as, one by one, the panel of contestants answered written and oral questions and displayed their ability to use a map to answer questions. There were many “oohs and “ahhs” throughout the competition and the crowd let out a collective gasp as Chester moved into the semi-finals by answering “Missouri” to the question: Taum Sauk Mountain, located near Mark Twain National Forest is the highest point in what U.S. state? “The annual GeoBee is an RCDS academic tradition that gives students the chance to cheer for a peer’s academic ability.  This is the RCDS version of a slam dunk!” remarked Mr. Jeffrey Utz, Upper School History teacher and Technology Coordinator who also served as moderator of the event. RCDS is also known for its strong athletic program. Last week, there were 11 RCDS alumni student-athletes who are current members of the Rumson-Fair Haven football team that won the NJSIAA Group II State Championship last week.

The kickoff for this year’s Bee was the week of November 11, with thousands of schools around the United States and in the five U.S. territories participating.  The school winners, including Cole, will now take a written test; up to 100 of the top scorers on that test in each state will then be eligible to compete in their state Bee April 4, 2014.

The National Geographic Society will provide an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for state champions and teacher-escorts to participate in the Bee national championship rounds on May 19-21, 2014. The first-place national winner will receive a $50,000 college scholarship, a lifetime membership in the Society, and a trip to the Galapagos Islands, courtesy of National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions.

Award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien will moderate the televised national finals on May 21, 2014. Please check local listings for dates and times.

Congratulations and best of luck to Cole as he takes the qualifying exam for the state competition! Special thanks to RCDS Upper School History teachers Niki Harrison, Tom Scott and Jeff Utz for organizing the GeoBee this year.