Wednesday, July 25, 2007

North Potomac girl competes in teen ‘Jeopardy’ tournament

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Naomi Brookner⁄The Gazette
Thomas S. Wootton student Amy Levine, was one of 15 teens chosen from around the country to participate in the first ‘‘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. ‘‘I thought it would be really cool to be on but I never thought I could.”

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.

But Levine still knew that she had to hit the books and prepare. She had to study chemistry and biology because she hadn’t even taken those subjects in school yet.

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

‘‘I watch ‘Jeopardy!’ every night; it’s definitely a ritual,” Levine said. ‘‘I like watching and finding out I know all kinds of things that I didn’t know I knew.”

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 taping of 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.

Lauren Levin said it was difficult watching her child during the taping of the show because she could see her highs and lows throughout the process.

‘‘Your heart broke when she wasn’t doing so well and you were cheering her on when she was making her comeback,” Lauren Levine said.

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

‘‘We were just happy to be there,” Levine said. ‘‘We kind of felt like we already won. I made 14 new friends.”

‘‘Jeopardy!” also provided a trip to Universal Studios to all of the contestants and two family members and $5,000 just for making it onto the show.

On July 17, Levine had a party to watch her television debut.

‘‘I invited a bunch of friends over and we had a little ‘Jeopardy’ party and had ice cream. It was fun,” Levine said. ‘‘It was like I experienced it more now than when I was actually doing it. It was kind of a whirlwind.”