FAIRBANKS (AP) -- When he was younger, 13-year-old Yan Matusevich had a world map as big as his bed hanging on his bedroom wall.
''When I was bored or I got in trouble I would sit in my room and try to figure out where I was,'' said Matusevich, a seventh-grader at Randy Smith Middle School.
He would draw lines from St. Petersburg, Russia, where he was born, to the other places he had lived: Oklahoma, Illinois, France.
The hobby helped Matusevich, the son of a history professor and a French professor, take first place at the 2002 Alaska Geographic Bee. Next month, he will travel to Washington, D.C., to compete with 54 other students for the national title.
''When I would listen to the news and I would hear a strange country, I would go to the map and try to find it,'' Matusevich said. ''Even in the first grade I knew all the countries and the flags. My dad would always quiz me on it, just for fun.''
His first step to nationals was the bee at Randy Smith. He competed against 11 students, won, and then took a written qualifying test for the state bee.
''I thought it was really hard, actually,'' Matusevich said. ''I thought I did bad on it.''
The top 100 scorers on the test go on to state. He did some preparation for the state competition, Matusevich said, ''but not crazy.''
''I would just look through the atlas and my grandmother would quiz me or something,'' he said. ''I guess I have a good memory.''
Matusevich said he didn't think he would win at the state competition. Listening to the other students, he said, he thought the questions were quite hard.
''Then they asked me and it just popped into my head each time. In my mind I just kind of skated over the world map and zoomed in on something.''
The competition questions were a far cry from ''state and capitals.''
After making it through the preliminary and final rounds, Matusevich engaged in several rounds of answers with a student from Anchorage.
''Either we would both get it wrong or both get it right,'' he said. ''Finally I saw his face go blank.''
The question: Identify the capital of Turkmenistan.
The answer: Ashgabat.
Matusevich says he is not a competitive person.
''I try to test my knowledge just to see how good I was at it,'' he said.
His coach, Aldean Kilbourn, said Matusevich's life experience has helped him immensely. He speaks three languages, she said, Russian, French and English.
''He has traveled a fair amount, and that helps with your geographic understanding,'' Kilbourn said. ''He is incredible ... what he knows for his age,'' she said.
Matusevich is the son of Yelena and Maxim Matusevich. In addition to geography, he plays the piano and soccer.
He doesn't plan a career in geography.
''It's more scientific research and that's not what I want to do,'' Matusevich said. ''I think I will do history like my dad.''
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