'National Bible Bee' Winners Take Home $260,000

Having her Bible memory and knowledge tested, Kari Erickson from South Dakota took home $100,000 as one of the winners of the 2011 National Bible Bee Competition, the finals of which were held in Nashville Saturday.

“God’s Word is so powerful! It is a great way to draw closer to the Lord,” says Erickson of Dell Rapids, winner in the senior category, on The National Bible Bee’s website.

Contestants in the senior section, aged 15 to 18, learned 1,100 verses; the juniors, aged 11 to 14, learned 700; and those in the primary category, aged seven to 10, learned 350 verses. In all, the organizers gave away $260,000 among the winners of the three categories.

Bethany Xiques from Miami Springs, Fla., won the competition in the junior category, and Olivia Davis from Salem, Ore., in the primary category.

Memorizing Bible verses is a great way to spend summer, Kari said to encourage other youths to do the same.

Bethany said, “Spending so much time studying, memorizing and meditating on God’s Word is such a blessing, no matter how many verses you memorize or how high your score was.” She calls it “an incredible experience.” Olivia said the competition showed her “how important the Bible is compared to worldly entertainment.”

GraceAnn Westfahl from Laramie, Wyo., stood second in the senior category; and Laura Hedstrom from Oxford, Neb., got the third place. Rionna Flynn from San Jose, Calif., stood second in the junior category; and Benjamin Smith from Murfreesboro, Tenn., third. Paul Keaton from Pikeville, Ky., got second place in the primary category; and Everett Chew from La Palma, Calif., third.

From Wednesday through Saturday, 300 qualifiers – of the 5,654 students nationwide – from across the United States gathered in Nashville for the competition. The top 15 competitors in each age division from the oral and written test rounds held Thursday moved on to the single-elimination semi-final challenge round on Friday. The five contestants in each division who prevailed in this onstage challenge rose to the final challenge round which determined the winners.

The National Bible Bee seeks “to help families strengthen their personal relationships with the Lord and dynamically impact the world as ambassadors of Jesus Christ.” All of the materials and events of the ministry are designed to be “enjoyable and family-centered as they encourage, recognize, and reward diligence in Bible study, Scripture memorization and prayer.”

The event is run by the Shelby Kennedy Foundation of Wilmington, Ohio, in memory of Shelby Kennedy, a young woman who loved to memorize Bible verses and who died five years ago of cancer.

This was the third annual National Bible Bee, the previous two were held in Washington, D.C. and Chicago.