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Hillsborough County Geography Whiz Feted At Tampa School

Jun 1, 2016

When Rishi Nair triumphed at the 2016 National Geographic Bee in May, he also won the hearts of mothers everywhere by grabbing the microphone and thanking his own mother, calling her a “great lady.”

On Wednesday, Nair’s classmates at Williams Middle Magnet School in Tampa celebrated with cupcakes as they watched a TV clip from the finals.

At the event, Nair said his path to glory started with the basics: U.S. capitals, currency and longest rivers.

But like most champions, the 12-year old's training intensified for the contest.

"In 5th and 6th grade it was four to five hours on weekdays after school,” he said. “And then the entire day like, 10 to 12 hours on weekends.”

Nair won a medal and a $50,000 scholarship by besting 53 other state and U.S territory winners. In the final round, Nair got six of the seven answers right, while his final opponent got five correct.

And the 6th grader said his National Geographic journey isn't over yet.

“I've been entrusted with the responsibility to be a geography ambassador to promote geography throughout the United States and throughout the world on social media and to increase geography awareness.”

In addition to the scholarship money, Nair also won an eight-day expedition to Alaska and a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society.

His love of geography started when his 1st grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in Plant City gave him a book on the Dominican Republic.