Bedford’s Kevin Owens puts New Hampshire on the map at National Geography Bee

Ross A. Lurgio 7th grader Kevin Owens represented Bedford and the state of New Hampshire at the National Geography Bee, held May 19th-21st. He achieved 14th place recognition after competing in the tiebreaker round of the preliminary qualifier.

The qualifier split contestants up into groups of 10-12 contestants. Each student was then asked 3 questions, and the students were ranked based on the number of correct answers they gave. Nine students answered all of the questions correctly, and automatically gained a spot in the final competition, leaving only 1 of 10 seats open. 8 students, including Kevin, had gotten 2 out 3 questions right and were required to compete in a tiebreaker for the final seat in the final competition.

Kevin fought hard but was eliminated in the tiebreaker round, earning 14th place recognition. Though that would seem like quite the feat to most, Kevin’s mom, MegAnn Owens, said that he was very disappointed by the results. “He was disappointed that he didn’t make the top ten,” Owens said, “that was his goal. He wanted to at least make the top ten.”

While he may not have achieved his personal goals, Kevin still fought a very hard battle to not only make it past the first round, but to make it to the competition.

Kevin’s journey began when he started looking at Z-Cards, produced by his father Jeff Owens’ company. “The company prints Z-Cards for an educational company called Maps 101. The Z-Cards have maps on the front and information such as presidents on the other side. We always got extras to hand out, and Kevin saw one and was sucked in,” said Owens, “he started reading a lot of books and answering the daily National Geographic questions online.”

In 6th grade, Kevin won the Ross A. Lurgio Geography Bee. He then passed the national written test earning himself a spot in the state-wide geography bee. After an hour and a half tie-breaker, he narrowly missed the 10th spot with 11th place recognition. Kevin took the loss hard at first, but then told his mother “I guess this means I have to go back and win it all next year.”

And with that go-getter attitude, Kevin did it all again this year, and more – he won the school competition, passed the test and went on to win the state competition, sending him and his family on a trip to D.C. for the National Geography Bee. Also along for the trip was Kevin’s math teacher, Dianne Riehl, who Kevin chose to come along for the trip because Social Studies teacher, Dave Stevener, was unable to attend due to the annual Memorial Day Presentation that he heads.

MegAnn Owens said it was an incredible experience for their entire family, which includes Jeff Owens and Nora Owens, Kevin’s sister who is currently in 10th grade at Bedford High School.

The road to D.C. began with a stop at the New Hampshire Capitol, where Senator Kelly Ayotte gave the group a personal tour. “She really rolled out the red carpet,” said Owens, “she gave us a tour of the capitol and then took us back to her office. We expected it to be a quick visit but she took the time to talk with Kevin and take lots of pictures.”

The fun didn’t stop in New Hampshire, however. Once the family got to D.C, they were excited by the environment of the competition. “You really don’t realize how great it is until you go,” said Owens, “the National Geographic ran the entire competition with such professionalism. They do an amazing job.”

While obviously excited by the environment and competition, Owens said her son’s favorite part of the competition actually happened before the competition even started. “He really loved the gift exchange,” she said, “each competitor was supposed to bring a small gift representing their state and he could not wait to see what everyone brought.” Kevin’s gift was maple syrup.

Kevin was also very excited by the freedom that the competition provided. “We barely even saw him,” his mother said, “at breakfast, he would want to eat with his new friends. They all stayed together in a hotel. He was with a kid from Oklahoma and another from Tennessee.” The competition also featured a trolley tour, a barbecue and a picnic all in recognition of what an accomplishment it was to make it to the national stage.

“Someday he is going to realize what an accomplishment this was,” said Owens, “it is amazing to see what these kids know. They all know so much.”

Kevin plans to compete again next year, and has high hopes of making it even deeper into the competition.