Wednesday, July 25, 2007

North Potomac teen vies for teen ‘Jeopardy’ title

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Naomi Brookner⁄The Gazette
Amy Levine, 15, a student at Thomas S. Wootton High School, was chosen from thousands of teens around the country to participate in the ‘‘Jeopardy! Teen Tournament Summer Games.”
When ‘‘Jeopardy!” fan Amy Levine found out she would have the chance to be on her favorite game show it was like a dream come true for her.

Levine, of North Potomac, was one of 15 students selected from around the country to participate in ‘‘Jeopardy’s!” first summer teen tournament airing through Friday. The tournament, which started July 16, will pay out $75,000 to the winner.

‘‘I was so excited; I couldn’t believe it. I kept saying, ‘Really? Really?’ I couldn’t believe it was true,” said Levine, a rising sophomore at Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville.

Levine, 15, has watched ‘‘Jeopardy!” every night since she was in elementary school. She always knew answers to many of the questions and thought she would make a good contestant on the show but always considered it a long shot.

‘‘I’ve been watching ‘Jeopardy!’ for a really long time,” Levine said. This isn’t the first time that Levine attempted to make it on the game show. When she was in sixth grade she tried out for the kids tournament but never heard back.

Last September, she thought she’d give it another chance. So she took the 50-question online test that featured subjects from science to film to basic math to literature.

She was told that she did well enough to advance to the next round, which was an interview, a mock round of the game show and another test given to the 300 finalists in New York.

That success led to the good news that she would be among the 15 selected nationwide to appear on the show. Levine’s mother, Lauren, wasn’t surprised that her daughter made it onto ‘‘Jeopardy!”

‘‘We’re smart people,” she said. ‘‘We try to keep the kids stimulated all the time. There are things that we think are important for them in learning.”

Levine also has a brother who will be entering seventh grade. Both children are encouraged by their parents to study and read the newspaper.

Levine takes all honors and AP classes in school. She is also a member of Wootton’s ‘‘It’s Academic” team, which she thinks helped her prepare for the show.

Watching the show and reading old questions online gave her the best insight into what to expect from the show, she said.

But the extra study time wasn’t a burden for Levine, who has a knack for remembering random trivia. She asked her family to quiz her and used her free time to review information.

‘‘Jeopardy!” doesn’t provide contestants with any study materials or give any insight on topics.

In March, Levine along with her brother and parents traveled to Los Angeles for the taping of the show and what proved to be an experience that Levine won’t soon forget.

‘‘I was really excited the whole time; now that I was there it seemed so real,” she said. ‘‘I was so nervous.”

During the show, Levine was pleasantly surprised by the categories, like ‘‘That’s Comedy” and ‘‘Name That Century.”

Several of the categories focused on literature and history, subjects that Levine always does well in. But her knowledge didn’t prevail in the first round of the competition, which aired July 17, when she was eliminated.

‘‘I was kind of surprised that I didn’t do better because I liked the categories,” she said. ‘‘The hard part of the game is the pressure.”

Also, mastering the buzzer is difficult, she said. Contestants only have a half-a-second window when they can buzz in. If they buzz in early their buzzer is locked.

Although she didn’t win the tournament, she had an amazing time and a story to tell for the rest of her life.