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HMS geography whiz takes turn at state competition

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

His mom said he could identify the states in the United States, and even their capitals, at age 3.

Allan Amrein isn't a bit surprised.

"He's a really sharp kid," Amrein, a social studies teacher at Hays Middle School, said of HMS seventh-grader Brendan Chapman. "He does real well in class. ... I wasn't surprised that a seventh-grader won" the school competition.

Brendan, 12, will get a chance to showcase his knowledge today.

He will join approximately 100 other students from across the state in fourth through eighth grades in competing for the opportunity to represent Kansas at nationals when they participate in today's Kansas state bee at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene.

The winner will receive $100, "The Complete National Geographic" on DVD and an all-expense paid trip to Washington for the 25th annual National Geographic Bee from May 20 to 22.

"He's always loved this," Brendan's mom, Alaina Dresslar, said of her middle son. "We're all excited."

Brendan will have plenty of support today.

Both Brendan's mom and his stepdad, Jason Dresslar, are making the trip to Abilene, as is his dad, Korrie Chapman of Hays. Older brother Keegan Chapman, an eighth-grader at HMS, is staying back in Hays in school. But baby brother Jackson Dresslar will be on hand to watch Chapman participate, although he won't remember it.

This will mark the first trip out of town for 4-month-old Jackson, and Brendan would like nothing more than to make it a memorable trip for Jackson to talk about years down the road.

"Geography is my favorite subject," said Chapman, who won the HMS bee earlier this semester, then had to score well on a written test to be one of those chosen to participate at the state level. "I would like to pass the preliminary round and make the final round, the championship round."

He definitely did his homework. After learning he would be participating at state, Brendan got online to check out the National Geographic site and take quizes, and he did some brushing up on his geography as well.

The state competition -- primarily oral, with some written answers -- is a two-step process with five concurrent preliminary rounds of 20 students each and a single final competition. The 10 students with the highest overall scores from those prelims will advance to the finals.

Other state qualifiers from northwest Kansas are Eliza Kastens, a seventh-grader at Rawlins County Junior-Senior High School in Atwood, and Layton Miller and Lance Griffey of Norton. Miller is an eighth-grader at Norton Junior High, while Griffey is a fifth-grader at Eisenhower Elementary.

The state bee is the second level of the annual National Geographic Bee. The first level began in November with contests in nearly 11,000 U.S. schools, in which millions of students participated.