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Zachary Ford, Corriher-Lipe student, in state Geography Bee finals

By Frank DeLoache
Salisbury Post
LANDIS ó Zachary Ford might have a leg up on the competition.
In a day of distractions ó everything from iPods and X Games to YouTube ó Zach practically gushes, “I love geography. It’s something I’ve always liked. I like looking at maps.”
By now, you may have surmised that Zach, an eighth-grader at Corriher-Lipe Middle School, is the school’s champion in the 2008 N.C. Geographic Bee contest.
He’s also apparently the only student in the Rowan-Salisbury School System to qualify as a semifinalist in the statewide contest.
This Friday, accompanied by his dad, Timmie Ford Jr., Zach will compete with 99 other N.C. students in the 2008 North Carolina Geographic Bee at Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh.
Corriher-Lipe Assistant Principal Scotty Thomas is very proud of Zach’s accomplishment and calls him “a very special kid.”
For his part, Zach, 13, gives Thomas credit for encouraging him to study and do his best in the contest.
The Geographic Bee, which is sponsored by National Geographic magazine and Plum Creek, begins at local schools. Any school in North Carolina with fourth- through eighth-grade students could participate in the bee, though each school in the Rowan-Salisbury system made its own decision.
Zach explained that students are divided among academic teams, and each team had its own competition. Then, the champions from the school’s six or seven teams competed for the Corriher-Lipe title.
Zach remembers the final two questions that lifted him to the championship:
– Name a country that borders India.
– What separate country is located in the city of Rome, Italy? (See the answers at the end of this article.)
But that didn’t get Zach to the state finals. Next, each school winner had to take a qualifying test, strictly administered by an official at the school and submitted to National Geographic for grading.
Students with the top 100 scores in each state, as well as the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Dependents schools and U.S. territories, qualified to compete in the finals of their state or territory.
Zach made it, and on Friday he will compete for a top prize of $100, a globe and a trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the national finals at the National Geographic Society headquarters May 20 and 21. The national winner gets a $25,000 scholarship.
Zach doesn’t know where he placed in the top 100 in North Carolina, but he said he began studying a little extra geography the day he took the test ó so he’d be ready for the state finals.
“I started looking at maps,” especially an Atlas he discovered at the Mooresville home of his late great-grandfather, Frank Theodore Gardner, for a little while every day.
“And on weekends, I spend an hour a day studying,” he said.
“I look at the main cities and the land forms,” such as prominent plateaus and mountains, he said.
The hardest part for him is measuring distances between cities, using the scale on a map. (He says math isn’t his strong point.)
He’s already considering getting advanced degrees so he could teach history in college.
Sometimes friends tease him about his love of maps and the names of obscure capitals, “but when they’re having trouble with their homework, they also know that I might know the answer,” he adds.
His dad, Timmie; mom, Kari, who lives in Florida; and little sister, Karigan, a 7-year-old, second-grader at Landis Elementary School, are proud of him, the teenager says.
Last year, Zach didn’t make it to the final round of Corriher-Lipe’s Geographic Bee. “I was real nervous,” he says. And after he lost, “I thought I needed to try harder” next year.
Zach also describes himself as a “really religious person” who has attended First Wesleyan Church in Kannapolis all his life.
“I think a miracle happened” during this year’s Geographic Bee at his school, he says. “I was up on the stage, and it was down to the last two questions. And I remember praying, ‘Dear Lord, just help me get it right.’ ”
And he knew the answers:
A country bordering India? Nepal.
A country in Rome, Italy? Vatican City.
Contact Frank DeLoache at 704-797-4245 or fdeloache@salisburypost.com.

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