The United States Geography Championships was founded in order to provide American students with a way to qualify for the International Geography Olympiad (widely referred to as iGeo). The 2019 International Geography Olympiad was held in Hong Kong from July 30-August 5, 2019. The 2020 International Geography Olympiad was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The 2021 International Geography Olympiad will be held in Istanbul on August 10-16, 2021. The USA’s participation in, and indeed, whether iGeo will be held at all or not are contingent on the pandemic coming under control.
Tell me more about how I can qualify to take part in the International Geography Olympiad!
Sure! For Varsity students (JV students are ineligible), the top six overall students this year will advance to a final competition in May 2021 to determine the students who will attend the 2021 International Geography Olympiad (assuming it is held). The top six Varsity students from the 2021 International Geography Olympiad National Championships (to be held in April 2021) will also be invited. If the same student(s) qualify in both years, no further students will be taken. Students who graduated high school in 2020 who are now in their first year of college or otherwise occupied are eligible to compete in the 2020 US Geography Championships, but are not eligible to compete for a spot at the final competition to try out for Team USA. Thus the final competition will have at most 12 competing students. From this pool of students, the top four (in a selection process to be determined) will then be chosen to represent the USA at the 2021 International Geography Olympiad.
The International Geography Olympiad is an international tournament for high school students from around the world which is organized by the International Geography Union, a global professional organization of geographers. The first iGeo was held in The Hague, Netherlands in 1996 – other iGeos have since been held in Portugal, Korea, South Africa, Poland, Australia, Tunisia, Taiwan, Germany, China, Russia, Serbia, Canada, and Hong Kong. In 2019, Team USA came in 2nd overall (out of 43 teams) our best ever showing, and all four members of Team USA won medals, including the overall iGeo World Champion, Albert Zhang from Gainesville, Florida!
Jason Flowers, a teacher and academic team coach at the Liberal Arts and Sciences Academy in Austin, TX, who has coached Team USA since 2015 was the head coach for the 2019 US team and will return as head coach in 2021. Steve Muench, a social studies teacher in Leonia, NJ who has coached since 2017 will return to co-coach in 2021.
Please note, though, that only Varsity students in the 2020-2021 academic year (i.e. students born before July 1, 2005) who are enrolled in a high school in the 2020-2021 academic year are eligible to qualify for Team USA for the 2021 iGeo, in accordance with iGeo’s eligibility rules.
All participating countries send four students to compete, but the entire competition is done on an individual basis. All students will compete in a multi-media multiple choice exam, a short-answer exam, and a fieldwork exercise. There is also a poster competition too. The students with the top overall scores, factoring in each part of the competition receive medals, and the top performing countries are recognized as well.
Subsequent iGeos will be held in Paris (2022), Bandung, Indonesia (2023), and Dublin (2024).
For more information on the International Geography Olympiad in general, see www.geoolympiad.org/ as well as the iGeo Wikipedia page.
For more information on the past 2019 Geography Olympiad in Hong Kong, see: https://www.eduhk.hk/igeo2019/
For more information on the past 2018 Geography Olympiad in Quebec City, Canada, see: http://igeo2018.ulaval.ca/
For more information on the past 2017 Geography Olympiad in Belgrade, Serbia, see: http://igeobelgrade.edu.rs/
For more information on the past 2016 Geography Olympiad in Beijing, China, see: www.igeo2016.org
For more information on the past 2015 Geography Olympiad in Tver, Russia, see: http://igeo2015.com/conf2015/
For more information on the past 2014 Geography Olympiad in Krakow, Poland, see: www.geoolympiad.org/2014/index.shtml
For more information on the past 2013 Geography Olympiad in Kyoto, Japan, see: http://japan-igeo.com/english/
How much will this cost?
For 2021, students and their families will need to cover their flights to and from Istanbul, but USGC will cover up to $1250 in expenses per student (i.e. entry fees, coach flights and stipend, training camp costs, etc.) associated with attending iGeo in Istanbul. The balance of fees (somewhere between $0 and $1000; most likely around $200-$500) will need to be paid by students or their families.
Note: While the exact formula can vary a bit from year to year, typically 50% of students at iGeo receive medals. The top 1/12 receive gold medals, students finishing in the 2nd and 3rd twelfths receive silver medals, and students finishing in the 25th to 50th percentile receive bronze medals.
Past International Geography Olympiad Medalists from the USA
2019 – 166 total students, held in Hong Kong
Gold – Albert Zhang, F.W. Buchholz High School, Florida (Overall World Champion)
Silver – Kevin Lu, Richard Montgomery High School, Maryland (17th Place overall)
Bronze – Daniel Ma, Hunter College High School, New York (5oth Place overall)
Bronze – Elys Anaya, Archimedean Upper Conservatory, Florida (56th Place overall)
2018 – 165 total students, held in Quebec City, Canada
Gold – Kyle Yu, Westlake High School, Ohio (7th Place overall)
Gold – Benjamin Benjadol, Trinity High School, Texas (14th Place overall)
Silver – Kevin Lu, Richard Montgomery High School, Maryland (34th Place overall)
Silver – Daniel Ma, Hunter College High School, New York (40th Place overall)
2017 – 159 total students, held in Belgrade, Serbia
Gold – Martin Rakowszczyk, Wootton High School, Maryland (12th Place overall)
Silver – AJ Manning, Bartow IB High School, Florida (20th Place overall)
Silver – Kyle Yu, Westlake High School, Ohio (22nd Place overall)
Silver – Jakob Myers, Naperville North High School, Illinois (40th Place overall)
2016 – 173 total students, held in Beijing, China
Gold – AJ Manning, Bartow IB High School, Florida (8th Place overall)
Gold – Eugene Wang, BASIS Tucson North, Arizona (9th Place overall)
Silver – Matthew Janson, Providence High School, North Carolina (20th Place overall)
2015 – 159 total students, held in Tver, Russia
Gold – James Mullen, Monta Vista High School, California (3rd Place overall)
Gold – Kevin Li, Westview High School, California (7th Place overall)
2014 – 144 total students, held in Krakow, Poland
Gold – James Mullen, Monta Vista High School, California (Overall World Champion)
Silver – Anton Karpovich, Illinois Math and Science Academy, Illinois (36th Place overall)
Bronze – Tine Valencic, Grapevine High School, Texas
2013 – 128 total students, held in Kyoto, Japan
Bronze – Joe Kiernan, Moorestown Friends School, New Jersey
Bronze – Nirav Ilango, Chattahoochee High School, Georgia
Bronze – Anton Karpovich, Illinois Math and Science Academy, Illinois
Team USA Overall Results
2019 (Hong Kong) – 2nd out of 43 teams
2018 (Quebec City, Canada) – 3rd out of 43 teams
2017 (Belgrade, Serbia) – 3rd out of 41 teams
2016 (Beijing, China) – 7th out of 45 teams
2015 (Tver, Russia) – tied for 12th out of 40 teams
2014 (Krakow, Poland) – 10th out of 36 teams
2013 (Kyoto, Japan) – 14th out of 32 teams