After a whirlwind week in which he won the National Geographic Bee in Washington, D.C., and then flew to New York City for a round of media interviews, Sathwik Karnik came back down to earth today, returning to his middle school in Norfolk.
Sathwik answered the most questions correctly at Wednesday's bee, which was held at the National Theater in Washington. His winnings included $25,000 for college and a trip to anywhere in the world — Sathwik chose the Galapagos.
Dave Quinn, Karnik's coach and a teacher at King Philip Middle School where Sathwik is a seventh-grader, was in the audience with Sathwik's parents and older brother Karthik at the final moment.
The second Sathwik answered the winning question, "Because the earth bulges at the equator, which mountain peak on the earth is farthest from the earth's center?" Quinn texted co-workers at the school, letting them know Sathwik had written the correct answer, "Chimborazo." (Who knew?)
Someone announced the victory to students over the loudspeaker system, letting them know their classmate had won.
"Everyone was just so excited," said Susan Gilson, King Philip principal and assistant superintendent.
After his win, the Plainville resident was spirited to New York City, where he spent Thursday doing interviews with various news outlets, as well as making an appearance on "Live with Kelly & Michael."
Today the whole school celebrated, Gilson said. A sign is posted at the front of the school, reading, "Sathwik Karnik is out of this world," Gilson said.
"They're really happy for me," Sathwik said of his classmates and teachers. "They said they watched me on TV."
The victory was the Karnik family's dream come true, Quinn said. This is the third year a Karnik has appeared in the bee's final round. Last year was elder brother Karthik Karnik's second and final year competing in the bee.
This year, Karthik helped his little brother prep for the competition, writing questions and making quizzes. He was even able to anticipate three or four of the questions that came up in the final round, Sathwik said, including a question on Chinese provinces.
"My brother helped a lot," Sathwik said. His brother was also the person who got him into geography in the first place, Sathwik said.
"He told me it was really interesting and I decided to start learning," Sathwik said.
Quinn, who has coached both athletic and academic teams, said the only difficult thing about coaching the Karniks was finding something to test them on that they didn't already know.
"This is a true case of a passion and hard work and what dedication to something can produce," Quinn said. "Sathwik and Karthik could tell you there's a lot of luck involved, but they could tell you you don't get to this level without hard work."
The Bee is in its 25th year and it was Alex Trebek's last year as host. Sathwik said he was sad the long-time "Jeopardy" host was leaving because he was "really nice."
In the coming months, Sathwik is set on pursuing his other interests: math and science. Once a competitor wins the bee, he or she is unable to compete in additional geography bee competitions.
Sathwik is a veritable triple threat. He has previously competed and placed in science and math competitions, including one at MIT, and is looking forward to competing more.
"Sathwik is an extremely talented kid," Quinn said.