• Photo: David Trattles / Canadian Geographic

The scoreboard at the 2016 Canadian Geographic Challenge was tight for the entire competition, but Jack Cheng held on to earn the title of national champion. The Grade 10 student from Calgary was calm as he faced off against four other students in the June 5 final — all that remained of the 20 competitors who had arrived in Ottawa from across the country on June 3 — and the crowd was treated to a showcase of geographical knowledge.

“I’m pretty proud of myself,” says Cheng, who attributes his win to a considerable amount of preparation, including reading and studying maps. He hopes to use his $5,000 award to promote geography at his high school.

Finalist Jessica Cao, of Thornhill, Ont., identified Old Town Lunenburg as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, securing second place in a tie-breaker against Grade 7 student William Chapman of Stittsville, Ont., the Challenge’s youngest finalist.

The 45 questions in the final — on everything from cultural geography to map reading — were presented in a game show style, including Jeopardy!-type video questions featuring luminaries such as diver Jill Heinerth and astronaut Roberta Bondar.

The goal of the challenge is not only to get kids excited about geography, but also to highlight its importance and relevance in our daily lives, says Gilles Gagnier, COO of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society and publisher of Canadian Geographic. “These national finalists give us hope that our future leaders will have a strong background in geography.”