Naval Academy midshipman among 'Jeopardy!' college championship contestants

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Gary Tse with Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek.  GARY TSE/FACEBOOK
Gary Tse with Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek. GARY TSE/FACEBOOK

Naval Academy midshipman among 'Jeopardy!' college championship contestants

by: Andrew Michaels, Columbia Flier, Md. (Tribune News Service) | .
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published: February 21, 2017

The knowledge of two Ellicott City natives will be tested on "Jeopardy" this week during the College Championship, as they compete for $100,000 and a spot in the Tournament of Champions.

Centennial High School graduates Clarissa Santori, 20, and Gary Tse, 18, filmed their "Jeopardy" episodes for the two-week tournament alongside 13 other contestants last month in Los Angeles. Quarterfinals began on Monday.

After a fierce round on Wednesday's episode, Santori came in third place, earning $14,000 in winnings. Santori was in second place (trailing by only $2,000) going into Final Jeopardy!, but got stumped on the last answer - in the category U.S. Political Parties, "Shortly before it's demise, it had split into 'Conscience' and 'Cotton' factions." The correct question was, "What was the Whig Party?"

Tse's episode is scheduled to air on WBFF-TV  Friday, Feb. 17.

Susie Eun, publicity manager for "Jeopardy," said nine contestants will advance to the semifinals next week, with three contestants competing in the two-day finals.

Potomac resident Alex Bourzutschky, a junior at California Institute of Technology, is also representing Maryland.

Santori, a senior at Northeastern University in Boston, Mass., described the experience on the show as "surreal," especially after meeting game show host Alex Trebek for the first time on-air. Last fall, the 2013 Centennial High graduate said, she decided to take the show's online test for a chance to be on the show. Following more testing and a rigorous 100-person audition process in October in New York City, Santori said she got the final call in December.

"I was like, 'Oh my goodness' [and] trying to play it cool while I'm celebrating in the dorm hallway," Santori said. "It was so much fun. I thought I was going to be nervous, but once I got there, the game went so fast that I felt like I didn't even have time to be nervous. I got into my question-and-answer mode."

Her two competitors are students at California Institute of Technology and Stetson University.

Santori said she played trivia in high school in the It's Academic Club and participated in quiz bowl tournaments that test students on topics such as history, science, art, sports and pop culture.

When Santori was a senior at Centennial, Tse said he was a freshman and new member of the club. Now a midshipman 4th class, Tse said he will compete against a University of Kentucky student and a Georgetown University student.

"I've been watching "Jeopardy" since middle school and I always wanted to be on the show," Tse said. "It was more like a vague dream until some of my friends were chosen for the College Championship last year. That really inspired me. … To get in as a freshman was pretty cool because I had every intention to try every year if I didn't make it."

Maggie Speak, "Jeopardy" contestant coordinator, said they were surprised to learn they had two contestants from Ellicott City, who were both "terrific contestants." After passing the online quiz, Speak said, contestants are randomly selected.

The former classmates said they were proud to represent their hometown on "Jeopardy" and excited to watch their episodes with family and friends.

"I'm definitely excited to see it. There's so much I don't even remember," Santori said. "It'll definitely be interesting to see. Everyone is just so excited to see me be a part of this."

Tse said his Naval Academy company will host a viewing party for his episode on Friday.

"It's going to be fun watching it with friends," he said. "… The whole experience was a blur for me, so it's going to be cool to watch that."

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