• Adventurer Mylène Paquette, host of the 2018 Challenge final, celebrates with national champion William Chapman

    Adventurer Mylène Paquette, right, host of the 2018 Challenge final, celebrates with national champion William Chapman following the competition at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa May 28. (Photo: Lindsay Ralph/Canadian Geographic)

The third time was the charm for an Ottawa teen who claimed victory in the final of the 2018 Canadian Geographic Challenge Monday in Ottawa.

William Chapman, a Grade 9 student at Bell High School, had qualified as a finalist twice before, even placing third in 2016. Asked by host Mylène Paquette how he was feeling after securing first place in front of a packed house at the Canadian War Museum, a stunned Chapman admitted his win hadn’t sunk in yet.

“I was just looking to make the top five this year,” he later told Canadian Geographic. “To win was just the icing on the cake.”

Chapman credits his appetite for reading news, books and Can Geo's Twitter feed for giving him the knowledge and confidence to answer questions on everything from climate change to UNESCO World Heritage Sites to the state of democracy around the world. Asked whether he had any advice for aspiring Challenge finalists, he said finding a balance between general and specific knowledge is critical. “News is great for that — it’s detailed, but not so specific that it applies to nothing else.”

First-time finalists David Landry, also of Ottawa, and Ryan Sharpe of Oakville, Ont., clinched the number two and three spots after a nailbiter of a final that saw the three competitors tied or within one point of each other through eight rounds of tough questions. Returning finalists Jake Douglas and Evan Fingerhut came in fourth and fifth, respectively.

Paquette, an adventurer best known for being the first person from the Americas to undertake a solo crossing of the North Atlantic Ocean by rowboat, praised the incredible effort and breadth of knowledge of all 20 of this year’s finalists and encouraged them to continue their geography studies. 

“This is a topic that is close to my heart and has always driven me to go further and learn more than I thought possible,” she said, adding that she looks forward to sharing her story with students across Canada later this year as The Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s newest Explorer-in-Residence. 

This year’s Canadian Geographic Challenge was bigger than ever, with more than 20,000 students participating. Once again, thanks to One Ocean Expeditions, the finalists will have a chance to explore Canada’s East Coast this summer on a 10-day cruise, stopping at Percé, Que., Sable Island, N.S., and Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park. 

Get ready for the 2018/19 Can Geo Challenge!