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GabeHendrixGeoBee

Gabriel Hendrix listens to his social studies teacher Ryan Delaney lecture on Friday morning. Hendrix says he wants to be an astrophysicist or nuclear physicist when he grows up. The seventh-grader is heading to Washington, D.C., to compete in the National Geographic GeoBee from Sunday through Thursday.

The Bass Strait is a waterway separating the Australian provinces of Victoria and Tasmania.

It's unlikely that many people in the United States are aware of it, let alone its name, but Gabriel Hendrix, a seventh-grader at Target Range School, didn't have any trouble recalling the name of the strait at a Montana geography bee in March.

Hendrix's answer earned him first place at the Montana GeoBee in Bozeman, as well as a paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the National Geographic GeoBee from Sunday through Thursday.

Hendrix will be one of 54 students from across the nation competing in the geography bee that covers an array of topics for which students spend months studying.

"I studied more and I just kind of progressed further," Hendrix said, shrugging off his victory.

Armed with a copy of the "National Georaphic Bee Ultimate Fact Book,” Hendrix said the national bee includes questions on rivers, national parks, provinces, territories, states and "all sorts of stuff in certain countries or states."

Hendrix's mother, Brigette, said that studying for the test has taken a lot of self-motivation on Gabriel's behalf.

"He’s just kind of been studying on his own, looking at books, the U.S. atlas, taking notes on different states, getting online and looking at maps for other countries," Brigette said.

He also watched final rounds of the competition from previous years, and arranged study sessions with his social studies teacher, Ryan Delaney.

Delaney isn't a stranger to the bee. Each year at Target Range, fifth-graders are required to compete in a class bee. The top students go on to a school bee, and from there, the top student takes a test to qualify for state.

Hendrix is the third student from Target Range to qualify for the national GeoBee in the past eight years, following Claire Hinther in 2011 and Jesse Zhang in 2014.

Hendrix previously qualified for state in fifth grade.

"Since he went to state in fifth grade, he’s really been excited about it and has wanted to do well," his mother said.

"I put a lot of time into it so winning it was somewhat spicy," Hendrix said of his state win.

Delaney said he tries to give students a basis of geography with each unit he teaches.

"I break up geography based on what we’re learning so if we’re learning about the Roman empire, we’ll do a geography unit on Europe. If we’re learning about ancient China, we do a geography unit on Asia," Delaney said.

Hendrix said he didn’t think he would get very far in the national bee compared to students from other states, but Delaney disagreed.

"I think he's got just as good of a chance as anyone else," Delaney said. "He's ready."

Hendrix is used to competing as well. In addition to the GeoBee, he placed as a finalist in the Missoula County spelling bee this year, and also competes in Quizbowl and Math Counts.

"He's an incredibly well-rounded kid," Delaney said. "Academically and socially. All his peers love him."

Hendrix, his mom, dad and brother leave for Washington on Saturday. When they arrive, he'll split from his family to join the other competitors in a variety of activities organized by the event. Hendrix said he thinks and hopes they include a visit to the zoo.

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