Geography whiz grabs third place

With questions like, "Which empire in Anatolia joined the Central Powers Alliance in W.W.I?", it's a wonder any students in the country could have hopes to place in the National Geographic Geography Bee.

Thomas Wicker, 14, an eighth grader at Carson Valley Middle School, has finished in the top 10 in the state in the last five years, and this year claimed the number three spot, the only Douglas County student to place.

And he successfully answered the question with, "The Ottoman Empire."

Wicker looks for clues in the question to come up with the answers.

"I'm not sure if others do it the same way," said Wicker. "I would think so."

Of the 100 Nevada fourth through eighth graders that competed at the geography bee in Las Vegas on Friday, seven of them were from Douglas County: Thomas; Meneley Elementary School sixth-grader Stevie Kinzy; Jacks Valley Elementary School fifth-grader Jack Crawford; Minden Elementary School sixth-grader Cameron Morefield; Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School eighth-grader Ben Syang; PiƱon Hills Elementary School sixth-grader Brittney Lathrop; and Kingsbury Middle School seventh-grader Karin Sharon.

Third place winners receive $50, second is awarded $75 and first place gets $100. Second place went to Maiya Gessling of Eagle Valley Middle School in Carson City and Paige dePolo of Little Flower School in Reno got first place for the third year. DePolo will now compete for the national prize of $25,000.

Thomas celebrated his 14th birthday while still in Vegas on Friday, where he and his mother Kathy Wicker took a short vacation until Sunday. Thomas' father, Bob, who has never missed one of his competitions, this time was away on business in Korea. He was in the Seoul airport about the time he knew the tournament would end, and called Thomas on the phone.

Of his dad, Thomas said, "He's the guy that teaches me and helps me study. He kind of got me into (studying geography)."

Thomas is virtually an only child. He has a half-sister in her 40s who lives in New Jersey and a niece and nephew. Thomas' parents were reporters for "Stars and Stripes" in Germany, where they met and Thomas was born. His father was a sports editor, and Thomas has an interest in sports as well. Thomas said he was number two in the state in golf in his division this year, and he plays basketball and baseball as well.

He's not sure yet what he wants to be some day, but a reporter, architect or lawyer are tops on his list. He looks forward to any new competitions that might be presented to him in the future.

"I have a pretty good memory," said Thomas. "That's how I do so well, because I remember stuff."

n Jo Rafferty can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 210.


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