WASHINGTON - Akhil Rekulapelli has his life mapped out. The 14-year-old wants to attend Stanford University and become a doctor, probably a surgeon.
But he knows it will be a while before he achieves anything as satisfying as his victory today in the National Geographic Bee, which came after a close call last year and a lifelong interest in nations, cities, cultures and history.
"I probably want to be the head of a department at a hospital, try to graduate at the top of my class, but I think, right now, this is probably the biggest accomplishment I'll ever achieve in probably 20, 30 years," said Akhil, an eighth-grader from Sterling, Virginia. "It'll be a while."
Akhil outlasted nine other finalists and answered all three questions correctly in a one-on-one showdown with his youngest rival, 11-year-old Ameya Mujumdar, of Tampa, Fla.
The decisive question: What African country is building a new capital called Oyala in the rain forest, 65 miles east of Bata? The answer: Equatorial Guinea.
Akhil receives a $50,000 scholarship, a trip to the Galapagos Islands with his family and a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society. The winning scholarship was doubled from last year thanks to a donation from "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek, who stepped down a year ago as host of the bee. Broadcast journalist Soledad O'Brien hosted this year.
Ameya, the runner-up, wowed the crowd on a tiebreaker question when he was able to recall the Earth's precise diameter at the equator - 7,926 miles. He gets a $25,000 scholarship. Tuvya Bergson-Michelson, of Hillsborough, California, was third and receives a $10,000 scholarship, and Pranit Nanda, of Aurora, Colorado, was fourth and wins $1,000 in cash.