With the question “Who was Jefferson?” Elyse Mancuso of Omaha not only won the “Jeopardy! Teen Tournament,” she set a record doing it.
The junior at Elkhorn South High School won $79,600 over the two-night final, the most of any teen versions of the show.
The first-place prize was supposed to be $75,000. But if the contestant made more during the final, she would get to keep that amount, a “Jeopardy” spokeswoman said.
So Elyse came home with almost $80,000 for her college fund.
The 16-year-old, who looked very calm during her four appearances on the show, said the competition was nerve-racking. “Looks can be deceiving. I was trembling.”
However, the most difficult part of the whole experience was not that she had to answer correctly in the form of a question. It was keeping the secret that she had won, and how much she had won, from everyone, because the show was taped in February.
She said she made many new friends during the taping. Her fellow contestants “were all such cool people. We've stayed in touch.”
Alex Trebek, “Jeopardy” host, kept kidding Elyse about her poker face, especially during each Final Jeopardy round.
“I did the math and knew that I was going to win,” she said, “but I wanted to make the game exciting for everyone watching.”
Elyse also got to visit Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., over the course of taping the program. She was especially thrilled with her tour of the White House.
“I met the pastry chef and the head curator,” she said, laughingly adding that she didn't meet the president.
“They were fascinating people, though,” she said. “It was amazing.”
The daughter of Jennifer and Paul Mancuso of Omaha, Elyse said she was thankful for the support from her family, her friends and her teachers, adding that she had received many good-luck wishes, even from strangers.
On Thursday, the first night of the final, she thanked her Quiz Bowl coach, Kim Johnson. The Quiz Bowl experience was great training for “Jeopardy,” she said.
Watching herself on television was “weird at first,” Elyse admitted, but she “sort of” got used to it.
And aside from nagging her about whether she had won, her fellow students at school hadn't given her a hard time for being a game-show star.
What does she want to do in the future? Although she is only a junior, has she started thinking about colleges and majors?
The answer is yes, she's thinking about it, but no, she hasn't come up with any answers.
“I have lots of ideas,” she said. “I'm interested in everything, which is great for ‘Jeopardy,' but not so much for the future.”
So what was the answer clue for the final Final Jeopardy? “When the future state of Iowa became part of the United States, this man was president.”
All three contestants knew it was Thomas Jefferson, and the two other finalists also did quite well. Rose Schaefer, a junior from Portland, Ore., finished second and won $36,000. Third-place winner Catherine Briley, a senior from Grand Prairie, La., took home $31,000.
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