He Knows Where It's at 7-Year-Old Boy Wows the Crowd at State Geography Bee

By Daday, Eileen O. | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), April 3, 2004 | Go to article overview

He Knows Where It's at 7-Year-Old Boy Wows the Crowd at State Geography Bee


Daday, Eileen O., Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Eileen O. Daday Daily Herald Correspondent

A 7-year-old prodigy who attends fourth grade at the Science and Arts Academy in Des Plaines nearly stole the show at the Illinois Geography Bee Friday at the AMC Theatres in South Barrington.

Young Derek Choi was barely tall enough to climb into his chair during the final round held in one of the main theaters before a crowd of 500 people. Yet he stood toe to toe with the rest of the 11 finalists and ultimately placed fourth in the state.

Instead it was Yangbo Du, a native of China and an eighth-grade student at Dunlap Middle School near Peoria who won the state title. It was his third try at the bee, and all three times he has placed in the top 10. Last year, he placed fourth.

He won $100 and a National Geographic globe and will represent Illinois on an all-expense-paid trip May 25 and 26 to Washington, D.C., for national finals, moderated by "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek and televised live on the National Geographic Channel.

"I like looking at maps," Du said. "And I like to read anything with science, social studies or history in it."

Other area students finishing in the top 11 included Zachary Blumenfeld, a fifth-grader at Daniel Wright Junior High in Lincolnshire; Kevin Schmidt, an eighth-grader at Glen Crest Middle School in Glen Ellyn; and Todd Tabor, a seventh-grader at Crone Middle School in Naperville.

Contestants were limited to students from fourth through eighth grade, and while there was no minimum age to compete, students could not be older than 16.

Derek clearly was the crowd favorite. Audience members cheered as his name was announced as one of the finalists, and the outgoing youngster waved as he ran up to the stage. …

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