By Elizabeth Wulfhorst
Emily LaMonica knows Jeopardy! She watched the long-running game show nightly with her parents. So when she saw commercials for the upcoming teen tournament she considered applying. After some encouragement from her Quiz Bowl teacher at the Marine Academy of Arts and Sciences (MAST), she decided to take the online test in the fall of 2015.
A good score on that test led her to New York City, where she took another written test, played a sample game and had a personal interview with show staff. In March of 2016, Emily came home to find her mom in the kitchen, grinning widely. “She said, ‘Guess who’s going to be on Teen Jeopardy?’ and I said, ‘Me?’” Emily explained with a laugh. “I was so excited.”
Filming for the two-week tournament was held in Washington, DC in April. Emily and 14 other 14-17 year olds from across the nation spent the first day in the nation’s capital touring monuments, taking publicity photos and just getting to know one another. “Everyone was really nice,” said Emily, “so smart, so funny. We still keep in contact through a group chat.”
Contestants must be 17 at the time of filming, so Emily, who is from Sayreville, was the oldest of the group, and one of only two high school seniors. She graduated from MAST in June, having attended the Monmouth County Vocational School District career academy as one of the five out-of-county students admitted each year. She is currently studying biochemistry and literature at Ramapo College in Mahwah, with the hopes of finding a job in a chemistry-related field, possibly combining her two interests by writing science research.
Emily’s pursuits in science and literature, including Shakespearean sonnets and the poems of Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath, mean she was well-versed in a wide range of topics for the quiz show, now in its 33rd season. Since she is unable to share any particulars of the tournament until after it airs Nov. 9 – 22, only those participating in the tournament and the live studio audience know the outcome.
“This was a wonderful experience,” Emily offered. “I’m so glad I got to see what the television world is like.”
Every student who participates in the tournament is guaranteed $5,000. The nine competitors who make it to the semi-final round are guaranteed $10,000. Of the three students who compete in the two-game final, third place receives $25,000, second gets $50,000 and the first place winner walks away with $100,000.
Photo courtesy of Jeopardy Productions.
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