But he knows it will be a while before he achieves anything as satisfying as his victory Wednesday 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. “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.
The decisive question: What African country is building a new capital called Oyala in the rain forest, 65 miles east of the current capital, Bala? The answer: Equatorial Guinea.
Akhil received 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 received a $25,000 scholarship. Tuvya Bergson-Michelson, of Hillsborough, was third and received a $10,000 scholarship, and Pranit Nanda, of Aurora, was fourth and won $1,000 in cash.