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Woodland Middle School Geographic Bee winner a ‘man’ of the world

WoodlMiddle School 8th grade student Nicolas Roman-Ahlgrim 13 Gurnee placed first school's Geography Bee. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

Woodland Middle School 8th grade student Nicolas Roman-Ahlgrim, 13, of Gurnee placed first in the school's Geography Bee. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 20, 2013 3:11AM

GURNEE — It all boiled down to the name of the volcanic islands off the west coast of Alaska.

Two Woodland Middle School students faced off in a dramatic finale to a 21-student school-wide Geographic Bee. The student who won best out of three final questions would be the champ who may compete at the state level. Nicolas Roman-Ahlgrim, 13, gave a wrong answer on the first question and a correct answer on the second question.

Nicolas correctly named the Aleutian Islands as the volcanic islands off the west coast of Alaska to emerge as the school’s Geographic Bee winner.

“I am excited, very happy, (and) a little shocked that I made it this far and I cannot wait until the next round starts,” said Nicolas.

After he won the school bee, he took a test to compete at the state level. He does not yet know how he placed. State competition is April 5, according to National Geographic, who sponsors the bee.

Nicolas won his class round and then his hall round (against three other classes) to compete at the school level. He said he is confident that he will get to compete at state.

He made the top 10 in last year’s school-wide Geographic Bee, but did not win the classroom round in sixth grade, when he first competed in the bee.

“My grandparents are the reason I got into geography because they’ve taken me everywhere,” said Nicolas.

His grandparents took him to Jamaica when he was a baby. His grandfather dreamed of taking him to Russia, and Nicolas wrote a poem about this, which was published in a book. Five years ago, Nicolas went on that trip to Russia with his grandparents. They have also traveled to his grandfather’s country, Peru, and a trip is being planned to visit his grandmother’s country, Guatemala

“I have a thing for other cultures,” Nicolas said.

He also has a “thing” for soccer. He is a kicker for a traveling team and hopes to play at Warren Township High School next year.

He is also into singing and has performed in 20 or so productions. Nicolas is fitting studying for the state Geographic Bee around musical rehearsals for an upcoming spring production of “13: The Musical” in Libertyville. He plays the lead, a boy who is going to have his bar mitzvah.

His social studies teacher, Joy Barbknecht, called him a “very bright kid.” She selected Nicolas as the social studies student of the month in December for excellence in areas like homework, test scores and class participation.

She said she wasn’t surprised that he won the Geographic Bee because he “seemed to really know his stuff.”

“He’s a great role model. I couldn’t ask for a better student,” said Barbknecht.

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