Matthew Wigler, an eighth-grader at Great Neck North Middle School, beat 99 students to win first place last month at the New York State level of the 2011 National Geographic Bee, held in Albany. The contest is designed to spark interest in the subject of geography among youngsters.

He next will compete against 54 students at the national contest in Washington, D.C., May 24-25. The winner receives a $25,000 college scholarship.

"I love geography, and I love the world," said Wigler, 14, who noted his favorite channel is CNN, which he watches daily. "A lot of the bee is about luck, but I studied a lot to prepare."

At the state competition Wigler answered about 30 questions that addressed topics ranging from world geography to politics to animal species, he said. The final question posed to him asked which country China surpassed last year to become the world's second-largest economy. The answer is Japan, he said.

To reach the state level, Wigler won a geography bee at his school and then took a qualifying test that was submitted to the National Geographic Society.

At Great Neck North he is a member of the Debate Club, Mock Trial Club and the Science Olympiad team.

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