AHS Alumna Advances to Jeopardy! College Championship Finals


Arcadia Unified

Branden Leong, Staff Writer

Jeopardy! is holding a College Championship tournament, and our very own Xiaoke Ying, an AHS alumna, appeared on Wednesday, April 15, day three of the semifinals.

The first week of the tournament consisted of five traditional quarterfinal games, with the winner of each game continuing on to the semifinals. Of the nine semifinalist spots, five came from the winners of the quarterfinal games, and four from the highest scoring non-winning contestants. The winners from each of the three semifinal games will compete for the grand prize of $100,000.

In Wednesday’s game, the three contestants were Xiaoke Ying, a sophomore studying at USC; Marshall Comeaux, a sophomore studying at the University of Texas at Austin; and Nathaniel Miller, a sophomore studying at Yale University.

In order to participate in the tournament, Ying had to complete a number of diagnostic tests. 

“I signed up for email notifications for the online test, which took place in October and is 50 Jeopardy clues,” Ying recalled. “Within a week, I got an email inviting me to an in person audition in November. It was 2 hours in Culver City, with another 50 question test, some time answering with buzzers, and a short interview asking about our majors and extracurricular activities.”

Miller began the first round, and the contestants quickly exhausted through the “Non-American History” category. Interestingly, Miller was the only contestant not to have a negative score that round, but the other two contestants quickly recovered from their missed questions.

During the intermission, Ying shared that she had a poem written about her during high school. 

“It was for an AP English class. The assignment was to write a specific type of poem that had a volta, or a turn or a twist at the end, and the turn or the twist at the end was ‘Hey, it’s about one of our classmates,’ and it was me,” Ying explained. Host Alex Trebek asked if she still had the poem, to which Ying replied, jokingly, “It’s somewhere on the Internet.”

Miller was the one to claim the Daily Double in the first round, wagering a mere $800. Though he answered incorrectly, his low wager did not hurt his score much. Coincidentally, a question appeared about curling, a favorite hobby that Miller discussed during the intermission. However, Ying was fast on the buzzer and claimed the points before Miller did, prompting a laugh from both Trebek and the audience. Although Miller had a sizable lead over Ying and Comeaux in the beginning, the contestants evened out the playing field towards the end of the round.

Ying shared that “buzzing was the biggest struggle” for her. Even though she knew a lot of the answers to the questions, she “just wasn’t able to buzz in fast enough.” Timing the buzzes was critical, and it was difficult to not buzz in too early.

In the second round, categories appeared that were both familiar and challenging to the contestants. Ying knew a lot about video games, as she answered nearly all of the questions in the “World of Video Games” category. Comeaux, on the other hand, dominated in the “Poetry” category. Comeaux also claimed both Daily Doubles in the round: one about poetry, which he answered correctly, and one about elements of the periodic table, which he answered incorrectly.

Ying found herself falling behind the other two contestants near the middle of the second round with about $3,000, while the others racked up about $8,000 each. But once again, at the end of the round, it was a close game-all of the players were evenly scored at about $10,000. Comeaux was in the lead going into the Final Jeopardy! question, while Ying was trailing by a small margin.

Ying felt unsure with the Final Jeopardy! question in the area of “Presidential Geography.” 

“Marshall and Nathaniel are both good with history, one of my weaker points,” Ying thought. 

Seeing the category and with this in mind, she wagered conservatively and bet only $2,000. Although all three contestants answered with the same incorrect response, the scores changed drastically. The other two contestants who wagered much more aggressively were left with almost nothing. Ying pulled an amazing victory with over a $7,000 lead, winning her spot in the Finals! 

“I was in shock afterwards,” Ying reported enthusiastically. “I wasn’t expecting to win, so it was a big surprise.”

The three contestants remain in close contact, even after the game. Ying still communicates with Comeaux and Miller every day in a group chat, and they hold Zoom calls every week.

Ying credits some of her success to her experience on academic teams here at AHS. 

“I was on Quiz Bowl and History Bowl all four years and that was definitely a great experience with friends and it definitely did help with trivia knowledge,” Ying told The Daily Trojan

During her sophomore, junior, and senior years, Ying also competed in the National Academy Quiz Tournament as part of one of two qualifying teams from AHS. Throughout her time as an Apache, she competed in 27 tournaments, more than others in the past few years. 

Mr. Christopher Schultz, who coaches Quiz Bowl, also attributes Ying’s trivia knowledge to her success.

Ying “is just generally a good all-around player whereas a lot of people have specialties when it comes to Quiz Bowl. We’ll usually have a kid that’s a history specialist, another person that’s a literature specialist and so on. She works as an all-around person; she could answer questions in every category,” Mr. Schultz said, according to The Daily Trojan

“The experience overall was incredibly unique and amazing. I think it really showed me how important it is to just have fun and enjoy life. I don’t think it would have been as rewarding if I was entirely focused on winning, because so much of what was great about being on Jeopardy was the things outside of the actual show,” Ying expressed.

Watch Ying compete in the Finals Thursday, April 16 and Friday, April 17 at 7:00 p.m. on ABC7 against students from Indiana University and University of Minnesota! 

Graphic courtesy of JEOPARDY!
Video courtesy of ABC7 and ARCADIA UNIFIED