Whiz kid

Published 9:10 am Friday, April 1, 2011

Shane DeSilva, above, an Austin Pacelli fifth-grader, will participate in the National Geographic Bee’s state competition. -- Eric Johnson/Albert Lea Tribune

AUSTIN — Shane DeSilva is a bee machine.

After placing second at the Southeast Minnesota Spelling Bee, DeSilva is competing at the National Geographic Bee’s state competition.

“I’m the first one from the school going so far,” the Pacelli Elementary School fifth-grader said.

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DeSilva came close to going to the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee after making it to the finals at the regional competition. He didn’t have to wait for long before competing again, as he found out in March that he was accepted to the state Geography Bee competition.

“I’m very proud,” said Sam DeSilva, Shane’s father. “He’s working his brains off. He’s always had his projects going on, and this is one of his projects.”

DeSilva has spent the past month training hard, always practicing his geography questions for up to two hours a night. While Sam helped Shane practice for the spelling bee, Shane is training for this contest all on his own.

“I just still find it weird that he’s able to know that information,” Sam said with a laugh.

Shane’s grueling training regimen includes answering up to 150 questions on About.com’s geography quizzes every day and going through National Geographic quizzes online as well. He has watched YouTube footage of previous National Geography Bee competitions and can answer most of the questions correctly. In other words, he’s pumping himself up.

“I feel very good,” Shane said. “Proud and excited and kind of nervous.”

Shane has a long way and 99 other competitors to go before he reaches the national competition, something he feels he has a good shot at getting to. The state competition takes place today in St. Cloud. If Shane wins, he goes to the National Finals at the end of May.

“Before it seemed impossible,” Shane said on his odds of winning. “But now, I feel very good.”