Tuesday, August 19, 2014

American Teen Wins International Geography Olympiad

James Mullen, a 17-year old Cupertino, California resident and rising senior at Monta Vista High School, took the top spot at the 11th International Geography Olympiad, held in Krakow, Poland from August 11 to August 18. Mullen finished atop the field of 144 competitors from 36 countries around the globe. He is the first American student to win the International Geography Olympiad in the 18-year history of the competition.

The International Geography Olympiad consists of three events: a fieldwork event where students take observations and analyze them, a written portion that asks students to critically think about major global issues, and a multiple-choice multimedia test which focuses on interpreting images and graphs.

The competition awards gold medals to the top 12 finishers, with Mullen having the highest combined overall score from all three events. Mullen was also the lone student to finish among the top ten students on each of the three portions of the competition

As a whole, Team USA finished tenth overall. The team included silver-medalist Anton Karpovich
(Hoffman Estates, IL) bronze-medalist Tine Valencic (Colleyville, TX), and David Yuan (Lexington, MA).

Medals at the Olympiad are awarded based on a formula where the top 1/12 of students receive gold
medals, the top 1⁄4 receive silver, and the top 1⁄2 receive bronze.

“James’ achievement is a tremendous honor for an American student on the world stage. His triumph
will encourage other students who are interested in the study of geography throughout the USA ” said
David Madden, co-coach of the American team and President of the United States Geography Olympiad.

April Scott, Mullen’s principal at Monta Vista High School added: “Monta Vista High School is extremely proud of James’ accomplishment! He has shown great focus and determination to reach this level of knowledge, and he is most deserving of this award! Congratulations to James!”

Mullen and his teammates were chosen from around 1,000 competitors nationwide in the US
Geography Olympiad, the national qualifying competition for the event, which is sponsored by
publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and the television network HISTORY. The two sponsors also helped underwrite the expenses for the American students to attend the Olympiad in Krakow. After 94 separate regional qualifying competitions, the top students traveled to Arlington, Virginia in April to compete in the national championship, with the top four finishers being chosen to represent the USA in Krakow.

Mullen finished fourth in Arlington at the 2014 US National Championships, and will need to qualify
there again in 2015 to have a chance to defend his title at the 2015 International Geography Olympiad, which will be held in Russia.

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