My story starts out simply enough. I was on the Jeopardy! website just looking around when I noticed that they had put out a contestant call in an area about four hours away. Consulting with my mother, I put in the submission. A few weeks later, we received a call from California, inviting me to take the qualifying test at this Ohio hotel. Obviously, I was elated.
May 8, 2002 rolls around and it's time for me to take the test. In a room of about eighty-five, I was one of nine in the room to have passed the thirty question test. After they cleared the room of those who did not pass, I participated in a quick, mock game of Jeopardy! They took our pictures and told us that we would be contacted sometime in six months if we were to be chosen.
In late September, our carrier of Jeopardy!, WNEM 5, called our house and asked us if they could come to my school the next day to do an "interview" about the whole Jeopardy! process. That day, the news team, along with my prinicipal and mother, informed me that I had been chose as one of the contestants to participate in that week. Thank goodness there was a wall behind me when they told me, otherwise I would have fainted. =)
Jeopardy! did a very nice job with accommodations. My family and I got a five-night stay at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, along with a $600 check for food and things like that. So, my tape date was November 8, 2002. All of the contestants gathered in the restaurant area of the hotel that morning, loaded up into the Sony bus and took off. In the green room when we arrived, we were given breakfast snacks, briefed on the rules of the game and had our make-up done. We were all ready.
They were taping five episodes that day, three before lunch and two after. They didn't reveal who was playing when until Final Jeopardy of the episode before yours. Interestingly enough, my episode was the last of the "week," against the two girls whom I had made friends with that day. Truthfully, I could say I wasn't nervous because I had been preparing for this my whole twelve-year life. I had done fairly well throughout most of the show, though my lead was harmed badly when the girl beside me, Madeleine, ran one category on the Old Testament and nearly another one on Conquerors (I got one from that category.)
Unfortunately for me, the scores were very close at the end of Double Jeopardy, so I had to definitely know what I was doing in Final. The category: "Nonfiction Books." During the break between DJ and FJ, the crew came around, instructed us on the use of the "magic pen," and looked at our wagers to make sure they were proper. It was time to determine the victor, now. The clue: "The Road to Middle Earth was a book written about this author."
The first thing entered my mind? "OH CRAP." I truthfully had no idea, so I just scribbled down the first thing that came to my mind. Amber, the girl on my right, had no guess. She wagered $5,000, dropping to $5,800. Madeleine, the girl on my right, had a very big smile on her face, as she guessed "Who is Tolkien?" I had never read the Lord of the Rings books, so I did not know that that was the correct answer. She had wagered $15,000, so she was now up to $30,300. You could see the disappointment in my face as the camera showed my answer.
I had risked enough so that I had finished in second place, but nevertheless, victory went to someone else.
The episode aired on January 10, 2003. And even though everyone I knew saw my defeat, I had a wonderful time there, it was a great experience. I left with $2,000 and a new computer (though the $31,200 I would've won if I was right would've been nice!) ) And even through the end of high school, almost six years later, I was known at school as "that Jeopardy! kid." This even parlayed me into being a volunteer archivist at the Jeopardy! Archive. If you would like to view the game, you may watch it below or you may view a text-based rundown of the game at the J! Archive.