Blake Kilraine, a newcomer to the Pennsylvania Citizens Bee and a senior at Carbon Career and Technical Institute, earned first place in this year's event.

The annual event took place in courtroom No. 1 of the Carbon County Courthouse in Jim Thorpe.

Kilraine is the son of Michael and Amy Butterfield of Lehighton. He plans to attend college and major in chemistry.

Kilraine was surprised to learn he had won the contest, and thanked his adviser, Michael Baumgardt, for preparing his team for the event.

"I enjoyed it a lot," he said. "We worked hard."

The second-place winner was Michael McHale, a senior from Marian Catholic High School. McHale is the son of Michael and Moira McHale of Tamaqua. Earning third and fourth place were junior Peter Phelan of Lehighton Area School District, the son of John Phelan and Fenna Millen, and senior James Ostergaard of Marian, the son of Lenard and Ann Ostergaard of Tamaqua.

"It was a very, very tight race. We want to congratulate everyone," said Amy Miller, the announcer and scorekeeper for the event and a reporter for the Times News.

"Those students who are graduating, we wish you luck. Those who are undergraduates, perhaps we will see you next year," added moderator Marta Gouger, editor in chief of the Times News.

As first-place winner, Kilraine was awarded $300. McHale received $200, and Phelan and Ostergaard were awarded $100.

The Pennsylvania Citizen Bee is sponsored by the Times News and coordinated by George Taylor, the editor of the Bethlehem Press.

Citizen bees began as a national competition with state and local levels. When the national and state competitions were discontinued, Times News publisher Fred Masenheimer decided to continue the local competition as a means to test local students' knowledge of local and national history, geography and more.

"Should we have academic competitions? Yes. All kids should have an opportunity to shine," Taylor said, adding that there aren't many local opportunities for students to test their academic prowess.

He said the information reviewed in the Citizen Bee will eventually play a role in the students' adult lives and hopefully help them make more informed decisions. With today's global interconnectivity, it's possible that obtaining this knowledge is even more important than it was 20 years ago, when the local Citizen Bee began.

"This knowledge is extremely important when you consider the turmoil in the world, for them to understand what is going on in the world," said Taylor. "Everything comes home eventually and affects us directly."

The competition was divided into two segments. Students first completed a written exam, then answered five rounds of oral questions in front of family and friends. Competition questions covered current events, U.S. and Pennsylvania history, economics, and geography. During oral questions pertaining to local history, students were able to choose from questions about Schuylkill and Carbon County regions.

Participants for this year's event were: Blake Kilraine, Charles Trovato and Alex Groller, Carbon Career and Technical Institute; Erin Kelly, Daniel Linendoll and Emily Layden, Jim Thorpe Area High School; Peter Phelan, Hannah Gilbert and Cammi Nalesnik, Lehighton Area High School; Michael McHale, James Ostergaard and Mason Williams, Marian Catholic High School; Gary Dise, Ryan Fiefel, James Yoder and Jakob Connell, Northern Lehigh High School; Andrew Nosti, Colin Green and Gavin Scott, Palmerton Area High School; Emily Drissel and Brooke Turner, Panther Valley High School; Damian Munoz, Jacob Gursky and Austin Zwolenik, Tamaqua Area High School; Ashley Nunez, Drew Solonski and Olivia Sipler, Weatherly Area High School.

School advisers for the competition included Michael Baumgardt, Carbon Career and Technical Institute; Shelly Miller, Jim Thorpe Area High School; Michael Feifel, Lehighton Area High School; Bernard Forgotch, Marian Catholic High School; Scott DeLong, Northern Lehigh High School; Paul McArdle, Palmerton Area High School; Timothy Grzio and Frank Damian, Panther Valley High School; Stephen Ulicny, Tamaqua Area High School; and Katie Leach, Weatherly Area High School.

Judges were Edward Lewis, district judge; Robert Brewster, Carbon County court administrator, and William O'Gurek, Carbon County commissioner. Appeals Judge was Steve Bayer, district judge, Tamaqua.

Graders for the written exam were Mary Ruth Taylor and Joseph Riccette, retired from Tamaqua Area High School; and Jeff James, retired from Jim Thorpe Area High School.

The 2014 Citizen Bee will air on Blue Ridge Cable TV13 and Service Electric Channel 90 at 7 p.m. April 29, at 3 p.m. May 1, and at 7 p.m. May 2; and on Service Electric TV2 in the Lehigh Valley at 7 p.m. April 30.