By CHRIS FASOLINO
---- — KEESEVILLE — Which is in Patagonia — Peru, Bolivia or Argentina?
The Anguilla Cays, part of the Bahamas, lie north of the Nicholas Channel about 50 miles from which island — Cuba, Puerto Rico or Jamaica?
If you know the answers (Argentina and Cuba, respectively), then your geography skills just might be up to the National Geographic Bee.
Christopher Yeager’s certainly are.
The 14-year-old is headed to the semifinals in the National Geographic Bee, where he will compete with students from across New York state. He is the only student from the North Country who qualified for the contest.
If the Keeseville teen finishes within the top three spots, he will go on to the national finals at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The national finals are hosted by Alex Trebek, and first prize includes a $25,000 college scholarship and an all-expenses paid trip to the Galapagos Islands.
Christopher is supported by his parents, Jay and Karen. And, for the past six years, he has had the aid of his autism dog, Nita.
Christopher has Asperger syndrome, and Nita’s loyalty has been a great help to him.
Christopher said she knows when he has a bad day and comes right up to him.
“They understand you — that’s probably why they’re considered man’s best friend.”
“When he gets upset, (Nita is) who he goes to,” Karen said. “She’s been amazing.”
Before he got the affectionate black Labrador retriever, Christopher recalled, he would hide when he saw someone he knew.
That way, he explained, “I didn’t have to talk.”
“There’s a funny social-studies reference I can throw in here,” he added. “Calvin Coolidge was really shy and didn’t like to talk.”
PREFERS THE CONCRETE
Christopher is now an honors student, and his love of geography has kept him absorbed in preparing for and competing in the bees.
“It’s something I can remember, and it’s entertaining for me — I don’t know why,” he said.
His preference for the concrete over the abstract is likely part of it.
As Karen says, “geography doesn’t change much.”
“It only changes in that the magnetic North Pole moves,” Christopher noted in response.
In the geography bee at his school, AuSable Valley Central, Christopher said one of the year’s hardest questions concerned a group of islands shared by Argentina and another country.
Students had to correctly select the second country.
“I said Chile and got it right,” he said.
Since he knew that Chile bordered on Argentina, he had made an educated guess.
The joke at school, he added, is “when in doubt, say Australia.”
To prepare for the contests, Christopher has studied maps and downloaded the National Geographic app for his tablet.
His parents have been quizzing him on state capitals.
The New York National Geographic Bee takes place April 5 at the New York State Museum in Albany.
As to Christopher’s success in making it there, Karen said, “Nobody’s really surprised, but we are very proud of him.”