Welcome to Jeffardy!


A roar of applause mixed with bright overhead lights greeted senior Jeff Xie as he walked onstage and shook hands with Johnny Gilbert, who had just announced Jeff’s name to the thousands of Jeopardy! viewers all across the country. As he stood under the lights, witnessing the cheering audience and the very stage that he had only seen on television until that moment, Jeff felt a sudden surge of exhilaration – he was ready.

In September 2013, Jeff decided to take the first step to his ultimate win. Being an avid reader, Jeff was fascinated by the idea of participating in Jeopardy!, a game show that tests competing contestants on their general knowledge. In order to be selected, Jeff went through a very long selection process. First, he took a 50 question online test. Out of the thousands who passed, he was randomly chosen to be part of a select group of 250 who were given the opportunity to attend an audition. The audition itself contained many different components – a mock game, a 50 question written test, and an interview. Based off of the results of the audition, Jeff was chosen to be one of the 15 people that would participate in the televised Jeopardy!.

After he was selected, Jeff spent days and nights rigorously preparing. He continued to keep up his daily reading, a habit that has allowed him to expand his knowledge over various subjects both before and in the months leading up to his Jeopardy! game. He also made use of online websites that contained archives of thousands of questions that had been asked on the program in previous years. He particularly liked using the J-Play feature on Google Chrome, which simulated the game and gave him an accurate sense of the topics he would encounter on the real show. He says, quite enthusiastically, “Through online tools, I even got to track my Coryat score, which essentially tracks how much money you would earn on Jeopardy with the number of questions you get right. It was very intriguing!”

Although the pre-game preparation was grueling, Jeff used the resources around him to make the process enjoyable. He says, “I don’t think I felt discouraged by my preparation. After all, it only helped by making me more familiar with Jeopardy! as a whole.” From the very beginning, Jeff exhibited the optimism needed to withstand any stressful situation. He turned preparing for a Jeopardy! game into an opportunity to learn many new things; in that sense, he was already a winner.

So, months later, when Jeff stood side by side with the host of Jeopardy!, he knew that all his efforts would not go in vain. Instead of feeling anxious, Jeff said, “It felt so exhilarating to be on such a nationally renowned quiz show. I could feel the vibe of the audience all around me.” Pumped and excited, Jeff went into the game confidently. He didn’t consider the questions to be too difficult, partly because his preparations had shown him what to expect.

When asked if there were any questions that really made him think, Jeff humorously responded, “there were a few questions that stumped me, but one category in particular was the Katy Perry one.” Despite this, Jeff overcame his confusion to dominate the game. His competition was tough to beat, especially since every other contestant was just as knowledgeable as him and perhaps even a little better at working the buzzer. “It’s not as easy as it seems on TV to win,” Jeff admits. Yet, throughout the game, he proved himself over and over again by consistently answering his questions correctly. He also discovered that his competition were surprisingly friendly. He comments, “The atmosphere was very genial, as if we didn’t even care about the competitiveness of Jeopardy!”

However, there is always only a single winner. When Johnny Gilbert announced Jeff’s name again, this time designating him as the official winner of Jeopardy!, Jeff was completely stunned. It was a tie between him and another contestant – a tie he was not anticipating. He says, “When I came into the finals, I told myself that it was okay if I didn’t win. I had made it that far, and I was proud of that.” But, for all his hard work and patience, Jeff returned home with a well-deserved win and a check of $75,000.

Looking back now, Jeff reflects that he couldn’t have won without the support of two special family members: his mom and sister. They were his motivators, always at his side through both the ups and downs. Jeff also attributes his motivation to some of the other contestants. Although they were competing against each other, they were still warm and encouraging. In particular, he describes a contestant named Maggie Speak, saying, “She was a great motivator and an absolute bundle of joy. She woke you up with her loud voice no matter how tired you were!” Jeff is not only overjoyed by his win, but grateful that he received the opportunity to meet other driven teenagers like him.

In the end, Jeff walked away from his Jeopardy! experience with both more money and more knowledge. He details the most valuable lesson he learned as such: “Life is honestly a bunch of luck. If William had gotten the Daily Double, I would not be a champion. Similarly, if Alan had bet a dollar more on either of his Daily Doubles, he would have won. Or, for that matter, if Alan and I had gotten the final question wrong, Cooper would have won.” He believes that it was partly his expertise and partly his luck that helped him become the Teen Jeopardy winner.

Nevertheless, he is the first JP student to ever achieve such an extraordinary feat. For that, Jeff’s journey to becoming a Jeopardy! winner will be forever ingrained in the history of JP Stevens.

[Featured image by JPS Regalis]

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