Calm. Cool. Collected. That’s how Christian Brothers School sixth grader Anthony Stoner approached the National Geographic Bee. He competed against 53 other students, grades fifth through eighth, in Washington, D.C. May 25.
Anthony’s journey to the national competition started with winning his school competition, which didn’t come easy. “It was kind of tough to even get school champion because there were a bunch of other people that were pretty darn good. I barely got it,” he recalled.
From there, Anthony placed in the top 100 on a qualifying test to land a spot at the Louisiana state competition and won—quite an accomplishment since that was the first time CBS ever competed on the state level. “I was surprised I got it,” he said. “I didn’t think I would and my mom started yelling and screaming and getting all excited, but I guess I was a little excited.”
Even though he called the competition “kind of nerve-racking,” Anthony portrayed a quiet, casual demeanor in the hour before the National Geographic Bee started. His goal was to do the best he could.
In his preliminary room with nine other contestants—five eighth graders, two seventh graders, another sixth grader and one fifth grader—he went through nine rounds of questioning. Anthony missed the first two. “I thought, oh my God, help me. I said the Hail Mary a couple times,” Anthony said. “Don’t make me get them all wrong, God.” He didn’t. He got six of nine correct. Not enough to make it into the finals, but still very impressive.
Anthony’s teacher, Christian Crawford, sat in the back row silently cheering on his student as Anthony stepped up to the microphone. “He is remarkable for what he did, how he did it,” Christian said. “Getting here, first of all. I told him before, you can either answer one correct, you can answer none correct. It doesn’t matter to me. Just getting here was just the sheer enjoyment of it. I’m proud of you for what you have done and what you have accomplished. It’s remarkable.”
Anthony’s parents, Jill and Jim Stoner, stayed out of the preliminary competition room—as they did at state—but thought of their son the entire morning. “It was a great honor for him to be here and we’re thrilled he came this far in such a little amount of time,” said Jill. “School is very tough and he didn’t have a huge amount of time to study.”
The school year ended the week before the competition and school work had Anthony’s full focus until then. After that, Anthony crammed—as he usually does—for the big geography test, studying eight hours Friday, 10 hours Saturday, and four hours Sunday. “I’m happy it’s over with and I don’t have to keep studying,” he said after the competition.
Anthony’s passion for geography started at a young age. His earliest memory of geography is tracing the state of Louisiana in an atlas. His mother said her family used educational placemats at the dinner table—placemats with U.S. maps, world maps, and flags of various countries. That helped Anthony’s interest grow, along with a globe he was given for his fifth birthday. “He would spin the globe and then he’d point to different places on it and talk about the animals that come from that particular location and things like that,” Jill explained. “He has a mind like a sponge. He’s interested in learning.”
Anthony’s sponge-like mind has taken him to the Academic Games National Tournament twice. His team came in third this year and placed first last year.
Christian is certain the Lasallian school environment plays a key role in the success of students. He calls it “teacher heaven” after working at several schools. “This is by far the best school I’ve been at. The principal is phenomenal. The administrative staff, phenomenal. The teachers, phenomenal. The students, phenomenal. And that just makes it all that much better. The Brothers are one hundred percent behind you. They give you everything you need.”
Perhaps that learning environment will churn out another champ. Maybe it’ll be Anthony again. He plans to make a run at the competition next year. Christian has high hopes for competitors coming out of CBS, especially now that they know what to expect. “It’s going to be interesting in years to come,” Christian said. “Don’t expect to make it every year, but the goal is high and that’s what we expect, thanks to Anthony and what he has set.”