WASHINGTON -- An eighth grader from Florida won the National Geographic Bee on Wednesday with the help of a question about Caribbean neighbor Haiti.
Aadith Moorthy, 13, of Palm Harbor, Fla., -- who was put on the spot during introductions when host Alex Trebek asked him to sing a Carnatic tune from his native southern India -- came out on top as 10 boys faced off in a battle of world knowledge. He wins a $25,000 college scholarship and a trip to the Galapagos Islands.
The final question asked for the largest city in northern Haiti, which was renamed following Haiti's independence from France. The answer was Cap-Haitien. Moorthy had it and gave a small fist pump.
"I feel great," Moorthy said with a big smile shortly after. "The mission is accomplished."
His father, Satyamoorthy, gave him a hug and bowed slightly before his geography whiz son.
For the past four months, Moorthy collected 20 facts a day based on advice from a coach and then reviewed them all. He's been on a mission ever since winning the state bee.
By now, "he has enough (knowledge) for a couple of books," his father said.
Moorthy spent most of the bee, though, on the edge of defeat. He was the only contestant to answer incorrectly in the first round and would have been eliminated if he was wrong again. He acknowledged he was scared, but nerves didn't throw the aspiring physicist.
Eight other contestants at National Geographic's headquarters -- from Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Massachusetts, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin -- all were eliminated before the final round.
The bee will be broadcast later on public television stations.
Questions touched all regions of the world. One round showed maps from Google Earth to help students identify major rivers with such questions as "Name the river that flows near these cities -- Ingolstadt and Linz." The answer: The Danube.
Moorthy clinched the victory with knowledge of Botswana, Argentina and Sweden in the best-of-five final round, as his final opponent, 13-year-old Oliver Lucier of Wakefield, R.I., stumbled.
"They were hard. They were really hard," Lucier said of the final questions.
Still, Lucier, a soccer player, will take home a $15,000 scholarship for second place. Karthik Mouli, 12, of Boise, Idaho, came in third to win a $10,000 scholarship. Both runners up also represented their states at the national bee last year.
Trebek told the students geography affects everyday life, from the volcano that erupted in Iceland and the budget crisis in Greece that has had a worldwide impact to the Gulf Coast oil spill.
School budget cuts nationwide meant fewer student participants in state and local geography bees this year, Trebek said. Still, more than 4 million students took part at various levels.
History teacher Michelle Anderson said she was speechless after seeing one of her students win the national bee. She said Moorthy also won the school's top honors in math, tutors students in science and was a state finalist for National History Day.
"He's just a great kid," she said. "We're going to have to call it the Aadith Moorthy school geography bee from here on out."