Geo Bee winner "on top of the world," sort of

Karan Menon is the country's new geography champion. He proved his worldly knowledge Wednesday at the National Geographic Bee and even, at one point, offered a challenge for the judges, reports CBS News correspondent Chip Reid.

The competition began with 54 students in the 4th through 8th grade. After two days of astoundingly difficult questions there was only one left standing.

Even before arriving in Washington Monday, the state and U.S. territory champions had already put in countless hours of preparation and survived a gauntlet of regional competitions.

But to make it to the finals, the young geographers had to endure 10 more rounds of questions to see who would earn a chance at the top prize: a $50,000 scholarship.

Thirteen-year-old Tejas Badgujar from Pittsburgh said he studied eight hours a day to make it into the top 10.

"I used to be in the spelling bee in the fourth grade. And I'm like, 'I hate spelling.' I saw no need in spelling. But when my mom told me about the geography bee, I was like, 'Oh yeah! This sounds cool! Let me get into it,'" Badgujar said.

The finalists ran into the theater at National Geographic headquarters like sports stars before hundreds of cheering family and friends.

They stood up to the bright lights and tough questions like seasoned professionals.

Fourteen-year-old Karan Menon even challenged the judges when he thought his answer to the question, "The Masabi range contains a large deposit of what metal-bearing mineral?" was incorrectly rejected.

"I said taconite, which is a type of iron ore, which is commonly found in the Mesabi Ranges," he said.

Host Soledad O'Brien announced the judges' change of heart.

"The judges had an opportunity to confer and there was a question about taconite, which in fact is iron ore and is found in the Mesabi Range. So we will grant Karan the point," she said.

That point ultimately proved crucial to securing Menon a spot in the final round where he faced one of the few female competitors, Shriya Yarlagadda, who had been nearly flawless. But after just seven more questions, Menon was declared the 27th Geo Bee champion.

Menon said he studied five to eight hours a day in the weeks running up the competition. His parents said the motivation is all his own.

"We do push him to go outside and play basketball," his mom said.

He may have felt like he was on top of the world, but said, "I would only actually be on top of the world if I was standing in the North Pole."