By Arcadia Unified Digital Communications Intern Claire Li
Arcadia Unified School District (AUSD) alum Xiaoke Ying had placed third in her quarterfinals matchup but earned a score of $12,800 which qualified her as a wildcard in the semifinal round; she was trailing at third place going into the last segment of her semifinal round, yet ultimately went on to secure her spot as a finalist in the ‘Jeopardy!’ College Championship. Currently a sophomore at the University of Southern California (USC) majoring in the business of cinematic arts, Ying placed third in the “Jeopardy!” College Championship winning $25,000.
After finding out she would move on to the finals of the “Jeopardy!” College Championship, Ying mentioned she was in shock. “I was trailing going into Final Jeopardy, and I didn’t know the answer, so I really didn’t think I would win,” Ying admitted. Ying had gone into Final Jeopardy in third place. While her other two competitors, students from the University of Texas and Yale University had wagered most of their points, Ying, knowing presidential geography was not her strong suit, bet $2,000. All three semifinalists answered incorrectly, leaving Ying with the highest score, thus securing Ying a spot as a finalist.
Competing in the final round, Ying said it was “somehow less stressful than before. Because Nibir was so far ahead, I was mostly focused on trying to get second.” Although University of Michigan student Nibir Sarma finished first, Ying edged her way to become the third place finisher out of 15 contestants.
To get a place in the competition, Ying first took a 50-question online exam in October. “I signed up for the notifications for the online test because I was curious about what it would be like. It’s a very simple process and it doesn’t take very long, so I thought it couldn’t hurt to try,” Ying said. While Ying thought participating in the “Jeopardy!” College Championships would be a good experience, she did not think she would get chosen to play.
Following the online placement exam in November, contestants chosen based on their test results were invited to an in-person audition. Although the audition in Culver City, Calif. was relatively close for Ying, others had flown in from more distant places like Canada. In Clovis City, Ying took another 50-question test, mentioning, “When I got to the in-person auditions, I had to see how I would do because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Ying later received a call-back in January and would go on to tape the show in February. To prepare for the game, Ying mainly continued reading as she normally had; she read anything she came across as well as subjects she was interested in. Ying added, “I did try to brush up on my geography by taking Sporcle map quizzes because I knew it was a weakness of mine that comes up a lot in Jeopardy.”
Before college, Ying attended Arcadia schools, going to Holly Avenue Elementary School, First Avenue Middle School, and Arcadia High School. Ying took part in Arcadia High School’s Quiz Bowl and History Bowl teams, which she noted “were definitely helpful experiences.” Ying added, “Quiz Bowl helps with expanding your knowledge base and can be a similar environment with the buzzing. In fact, during info meetings for Quiz Bowl tryouts, we would often describe it as Jeopardy with teams.” She also mentioned, “The other contestants have also competed in Quiz Bowl, so we all had that experience.”
When filming the show, Ying admitted, “It was pretty nerve-wracking to be on TV. There’s an audience, and my family was there so I didn’t want to disappoint them.” While she was nervous, Ying noted, “The game itself goes by pretty fast and the contestant coordinators there are really great about giving pep talks during commercial breaks.”
For Ying, the biggest challenge during the show was trying to get the timing of the buzzer right. She said, “I believe we all knew most of the answers, so it’s just a matter of who can buzz in the fastest, and that was difficult for me compared to the others.” She added, “Something about Jeopardy that a lot of people don’t realize is that the screen doesn’t expand like it does on TV. Each clue stays in its location, so sometimes it can be a little hard to read!”
Ying’s favorite part was the people she met. “Everyone who works there is amazing and super helpful,” Ying commented. “With the other contestants, even though we only met for two days in person, we’ve all become such close friends. We still talk almost every day in the group chat and have weekly Zoom calls. By far the best part of the experience was the people I met.”