2009 College Championship wildcard semifinalist: $10,000.
20 and from Cortlandt Manor, New York at the time of the College Championship.
Jeopardy! Message Board user name: asg929
Ariella Goldstein Blog Entry 3
May 12, 2009
I was a semifinalist. My dream had become a reality - I got another episode.
I went to sleep that night after the quarterfinals feeling pretty good about myself, and woke up the next morning to repeat what I had done the day before. I already had one game under my belt and was feeling less anxious about the semifinals because I had reached my goal of just being able to go back and give it another go. The nine semifinalists, Erica, Scott, Andrew, Eric, Laura, Patrick, Mark, Greg, and I, as well as Larissa, the alternate for the semifinals (as she had the fifth highest wild card score), boarded the bus that took us back to the studio.
Since the semifinals were "winner take all, we wouldn't be locked in the green room, which was a relief, to say the least. We were allowed to watch the semifinals from the studio audience, and then the finals, if we were not in them ourselves. We arrived at the studio, went into makeup, and went out to the set to play a few rehearsal games. Then we went back in the green room and they announced the lineup for the first semifinal game.
This time I was in the lineup for the first game, slated to play Scott and Eric. We went into makeup again, got wired with microphones, and made our way to the stage. We took our places at the podiums in order of how high we had scored in our quarterfinal games. Scott took the far left podium closest to Alex, I found myself in the middle again, and Eric stood at the podium closest to the audience. The other semifinalists were sitting together in the audience, as well as the quarterfinalists that had been eliminated the day before - they had all split taxi fare so they could cheer us on and see us play.
Then the stage manager said, "Stand-by, 20 seconds." And away we go!
I heard Johnny Gilbert announce, "This is the Jeopardy! College Championship! And now let's meet today's semifinal contestants!" I don't remember the exact words but it was something like that. When he announced my name, I looked into the camera and smiled, as I had done the day before. Alex then came out from backstage and it felt like a repeat of the previous day - déjà vu! Alex told the audience how this was day 1 of the semifinals and how one of us would advance to the two-day final.
He then revealed the first round categories: "The 21st Century with CNN," "Name the Game Show," a cliffs notes category, a category about sweets, and another category with "shot" in quotations were among them.
The first question selected was from the game show category, and I struck first, answering with "Deal or No Deal." I continued with the category and repeated with "1 vs. 100."
Then my luck started to sour, as I kept getting locked out on the buzzer and I hardly answered any other questions that round. I remember getting some of the cliffs notes questions correct, "Snows of this African peak - What is Kilimanjaro?" I answered "cotton candy" in the sweets category as well, before losing $800 or so on this dumb question about Necco wafers.
For the first part of the Single Jeopardy! round I had this shortness of breath, this sick feeling, and for some odd reason I felt like I was going to throw up. When the game went into the first commercial break, I let out this loud, guttural cough, frantically drinking from the bottle of water the producers had given each of us, hoping that it would make me feel better. I started to feel better after drinking the water, and gave a few deep breaths.
When filming resumed, Alex again went down the line to find out more about the contestants. This time around, we talked about how second semester of my freshman year of college, I helped curate an art exhibit for a class entitled, "If you remember the sixties, then you weren't there," and how I had a piece of artwork in it, depicassassination amidst spatters of red paint. Alex kept saying how he remembered the sixties, and by the time the mini-interviews were over, I had control of the game board. I tried my best to time it so that I would not interrupt him while making my category selection, but I epically failed, as I proceeded with the cliffs notes category.
At the end of the first round I was getting my butt kicked...hard. I had $400. Glenn went up to me and told me how I had the fastest reaction time out of the three of us, but I kept ringing in too early and locking myself out. I told him that I had been looking at the lights and doing everything I had done in my quarterfinal game. I hoped that my buzzer woes would not continue in the Double Jeopardy! round, and I desperately wanted to get myself back into the game.
At least my lower score gave me control of the board, and when I saw some of the categories, "World Capitals," "Broadway Revivalism," "Mammal Anagrams," "African-Americans," I knew that things were looking up. I chose "World Capitals" and again struck first - I knew the capital of Australia was Canberra, and naturally I selected the same category for the $800 clue - the Daily Double! Alex informed me that I had $800 yet I could risk up to $2000 - which I did. It seemed as if I had to, and I was comfortable enough with the category to do so.
The clue was about a world capital on the Attic peninsula. I initially froze and my mind drew a blank, as I thought in my head, "Attic, Attic.....where is it...At...Att...sounds like Attic," and then I said, "What is Athens?"
It WAS Athens. I had answered correctly and heard a round of applause from the audience and my fellow contestants. And with one question I was back in the game with $2800.
I remember getting the first three clues in the Broadway category - "Hair," "Chicago," and "South Pacific" and two from the African-American category, "Martin Luther King, Jr.," and "Howard University," which was the $2000 clue. I don't remember any of the other questions, other than the fact that I continued to lock myself out with that damn buzzer. But somehow. by the end of the round, I had managed to gain $7600 - a HUGE increase, and ended the round with $8000, the third place score going into Final Jeopardy!.
When I saw the Final Jeopardy! category, my heart sank a little. "Word Origins." Oh great, that category again? That had been one of the Double Jeopardy! categories from my quarterfinal game! I looked at Eric's and Scott's scores, and then looked at mine. I had no other choice - I had to risk everything.
Then Alex read the clue and the Jeopardy! think music started.
Journalistic term that had meant a line which slaves could not cross. I thought long and hard, almost running out of time, as I scribbled in my answer at the very last second, making my question mark look like an "S" in the process.
When Alex revealed my answer, "Headline," it was incorrect, and I dropped to $0. My run on Jeopardy! was over. Eric guessed correctly, and I saw that even if I had gotten it right and doubled my score, I still would have lost, so I felt a little better about the whole thing.
Oddly enough, Scott thought of the same answer I did, and we both walked away as semifinalists.
I did not advance to the finals and ended my run on the Jeopardy!
College Championship as a semifinalist. I was not satisfied with my performance in the semifinals, yet I was content with being a semifinalist and not advancing to the finals. I mean, you can't win them all. I gave it my best. And if all else fails, I get to say that I was on College Jeopardy! Not a lot of people can do that, you know?
On the bus ride back to the hotel after taping completed, I called my parents to inform them that I ended as a semifinalist. My mom initially misheard me and said, "FINALIST?!!" but I told her, "No, semifinalist. I did my best. Even if I had gotten the Final Jeopardy! correct I'd still be a semifinalist, so it's okay!" Either way they were proud of me. And I was proud of myself.
When I went back to class the day after leaving Los Angeles, I told all my friends and professors when they could see my quarterfinal game on TV, and urged them to watch the other quarterfinal games that would air before mine so they could cheer my friends on. Everyone also kept pressuring me to tell them how I did and whether or not I advanced, but I just kept telling them, "I can't tell you how I did until after the episode airs. You just have to watch; don't expect me to tell you how I did!"
Although I didn't see the previous four quarterfinal games because of the wild card rule, I'm sure everyone did great and I can't wait to watch them all!
Being a contestant on College Jeopardy! was probably the one of the best experiences of my life and I am so happy that I got to be a part of it. The experience hasn't necessarily altered my summer plans, as I'm still just trying to get a job anywhere; an internship, a retail job, a supermarket job, anything. No fancy trips for me. However, the experience (and the nice check that resulted) will probably make it a lot easier for me to pay off my college loans after I graduate, which is something to look forward to. One less thing I have to worry about.
I can't sign off on this without acknowledging all the amazing people I met and the new friends I made from this experience. Our group had an unbreakable bond that I will never forget. We all got so close it was as if we had known each other for years. I love my new friends and loved every minute of my time with them, from the hours we spent in the green room, to the bus rides to and from the studio, and to the time spent with them at dinner and at the hotel the last night before our flights home. I couldn't have asked for a nicer, more amazing group of people to get to know, develop friendships with, and spend time with, and I am honored to call them my friends. I'll never forget all the good memories we made; they just made the entire experience as a whole even better. My time on the 2009 Jeopardy! College Championship is definitely one of the highlights of my life so far!
Ariella Goldstein Blog Entry 2
May 11, 2009
On Easter Sunday, I took an 8:30 AM flight from Newark airport and arrived at LAX at around 11:40 AM California time. I was then transported by a Lincoln towncar to the Universal Hilton. As I rode in the car, I looked out the window to take in the Los Angeles scenery; the strange looking palm trees, the Spanish-style buildings, the Hollywood sign. It finally hit me that I was in California.
I checked into the Universal Hilton, went up to my room (an end room), and was completely floored. It was huge! I had a king-sized bed, a couch, a fancy-looking desk, and an enormous bathroom. I felt like I was living "the high life." From my tenth-floor window I had a view of Universal Studios and CityWalk.
I went to CityWalk and walked around aimlessly for about an hour, looking at everything and seeing what was there. After I ate lunch I was still feeling a bit headachey from the flight and exhaustion of having been up since 3:20 AM East Coast time, so I went back to my room, relaxed on the couch, and watched television for a few hours. I went to sleep that night, knowing I had a free day ahead of me.
I woke up at around 9 on Monday morning, and after breakfast I met two other competitors in the hotel lobby: Kadeem from UVA and Elyssa from St. Johns College. That afternoon, I went to Universal Studios by myself, which was alright; at least I got to go on most of the rides and go through the park at my own fast pace. When I got back to the hotel after having been out all day, I met another contestant, Scott from Johns Hopkins, in the elevator. I returned to my room and went to sleep early, as I had a long day ahead of me.
I woke up at 5:45 on Tuesday morning, showered, readied myself, and made it downstairs at about 7:10. I got a doughnut and frappuccino from the Starbucks kiosk for breakfast, and sat down on one of the comfy chairs in the hotel lobby to wait for the others. Maggie, the contestant coordinator whom I had auditioned for, greeted me in the lobby, and we chatted until the other contestants started to arrive. I was really nervous about meeting the other contestants, but we became fast friends. In addition to Kadeem, Elyssa, and Scott, I met Erica from Princeton, Andrew from Tufts, Greg from Vassar, Larissa from Rice, Eric from Emory, Jennifer from Ohio State, Patrick from Notre Dame, Anthony from Harvard, Mark from Kansas, Laura from Missouri, and Courtney from Michigan State. We were all excited and nervous; none of us knew what would happen or what to expect, only that in the end, one of us was going to be $100,000 richer. We also met Steve from UCLA, the alternate, who would go on the show in case something crazy happened to one of us.
On the long ride to the studio, Maggie gave us the run down on what would happen, but I don't think it really sank in until we arrived at the studio, made it to the green room, and started filling out the forms. We met Robert, Corina, and Glenn, and they started telling us what was going to happen and how the game was going to work. We were all telling each other where we were from, what we were studying, and what we did to prepare.
After we filled out our forms, we all went into makeup and then out to the studio to play a few rehearsal games to get a feel for the buzzers. The studio was so much smaller than I expected it to be - the audience looked like it could hold no more than 100 people. We learned how to use the electric pens to sign our names, what camera to look into when our name was announced, how to wager for Final Jeopardy!, and how to accept the wagers we had written.
The buzzers were a lot more difficult than they looked - I had difficulty ringing in because I would either lock myself out by ringing in too early or get in too late. I waited for the flashing lights and tried to get my timing down. As the rehearsal went on I got better at it and was feeling fairly confident. We also filmed interviews and promos, which were so over-the-top that they made us look like goofballs, but it was all in good fun. Among the promos were those for our local news stations at home, so I filmed a promo for ABC 7 New York.
We returned to the green room, and all we could do was wait.
The other contestants and I knew that by the end of the day, 15 would become 9. Five winners plus four "wild cards." Robert and Maggie would call us up in groups of three to play our games, this time for real. Because the four wild card spots were dependent on the final scores, the staff locked us in the "green room" (which wasn't really green). We weren't allowed to see the previous games or find out how the other players did because that would have given us an unfair advantage in our wagering for Final Jeopardy!. Those who completed their games did not return to the green room; they sat together in the studio audience.
In the green room, we had to keep the volume level high enough so that we couldn't hear the game from the studio while at the same time low enough so that those playing the game and in the audience could not hear us. Our cell phones and iPods had to be turned off and we could not take pictures. All we were allowed to do was talk, play card games, and watch movies specifically chosen for us by the Jeopardy! writers because they did not not have any references to the clues in any of the games. While waiting to go on, we played several games of Uno and watched "Mean Girls," "Seabiscuit" (though not really - off and on), and part of "Bend it Like Beckham," but most of the time we just talked and got to know each other better.
After the first three games were filmed, the six contestants (including myself) who had not yet played were given a cold lunch in the green room. The nine who had played their games got a hot lunch in the cafeteria and we were all a tiny bit peeved that we were stuck with cold cuts, salad, and potato chips. After lunch, the six of us were allowed to participate in another rehearsal game to get a feel for the buzzers again after having been locked in the green room for so long. After the rehearsal game, we went back into the green room and they called the lineup for game four.
Sadly, I was not in the lineup for game four. Patrick, Andrew, and I were the three players who remained, having to brave yet another hour in the green room. We all said, "So I guess this means we're playing each other!" As we continued to wait, we played a few hardcore Uno games with Corina and Steve and just talked - there was nothing else we could do. At one point I jokingly said, "We'd all better get into the semifinals. We've waited so long, you know?" The three of us had met in the hotel lobby at 7:30 that morning, arrived at the studio shortly after 8:30, and did not get called for our show until 4:20 that afternoon - it had been a long, long day. When we were finally called, we were put back into makeup and wired with microphones before we went out on stage.
We walked on the set and took our places at the podiums in alphabetical order by last name; I stood at the middle podium with Andrew on my right (the far left podium closest to Alex) and Patrick on my left. Maggie, Robert, and Glenn came over to us before the game started to calm our nerves and congratulate us for getting this far, and told us that no matter what happened, we all did great. They then did a quick test of the buzzers to make sure they were all working. Then the stage manager announced, "Stand-by. 20 seconds." It was time.
The music started and Johnny Gilbert's distinct voice announced, "This is the Jeopardy! College Championship!" When I heard my name announced, "A junior from Muhlenberg College, Ariella Goldstein!" I looked into the camera and smiled. Then I heard him announce, "And here he is....Alex...TREBEK!" We all clapped as Alex Trebek came out from backstage, told the audience how this was game five of the quarterfinals, and revealed the first round categories.
The first round went by so fast, and I don't even think I rang in until the second or third category. I was getting locked out but not repeatedly, and some of the answers I just flat out didn't know. The Single Jeopardy! categories weren't the greatest: "Old Folks in their 30s," "State of the College," a French category, a category about skiing, and another category about rock albums were among them. A few of the questions I answered were educated guesses that ended up being correct. "NBC Sunday morning news show" - I rang in and guessed "Meet the Press" - I had an inkling and wasn't even sure if it was right. I did the same for the French category - "Huiteme - Eighth." I did get a completely obvious question wrong at some point during the game - "Skeletal and cardiac - bones?" Stupid, stupid.
At the first commercial break, the producers brought in small bottles of water for us, told us how great we were all doing, and had us test the buzzers again. When filming resumed, Alex went down the line and talked to each of us about ourselves, drawing from the material we had supplied on our information sheets at auditions.
Alex Trebek is very professional, well-read, and charismatic: all the components of a great game show host. When he got to me, we talked about how I had interned at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC the previous semester.
The game resumed and I hit the first round Daily Double, wagered only $1200, and wished I had bet the whole thing - I didn't know the answer would be as easy as "slalom." At the end of Single Jeopardy! I was in second place and feeling alright about my performance thus far. The producers gave us more water, tested our buzzers, and reassured us that we were doing fine.
When Alex read the Double Jeopardy! categories I was feeling really good about "American Authors" and almost swept it (couldn't think of the $1600!). I was especially proud of my "Philip Roth" answer - I knew that my professor for my Jewish-American writing class would be so happy, as we had just read "Goodbye, Columbus" and had been assigned to read "Defender of the Faith." Other categories were "Mathem Attack!", "Name the Decade," and "Word Origins." I remember ringing in for the decade category: "Man first reaches South Pole - What are the 1910's?" Everything else is such a blur.
At the end of the Double Jeopardy! round, I had $12000 and was in second place. Then Alex announced the Final Jeopardy! category - "European History." I was feeling pretty good about the category, and I knew that if I answered incorrectly my high school AP Euro teacher would never let me hear the end of it. I was not aiming to win the game - all I wanted was a wild card spot.
I wagered $6401, enough to beat Andrew by a dollar if he risked everything, and perhaps enough to beat Patrick if he answered incorrectly. I went over the amount again and again in my head before I accepted my wager - I could think of no better amount to write in the box. It would have been stupid for me to risk everything, because if I answered incorrectly and lost it all, my run on Jeopardy! would have been over right then and there.
When Alex read the clue, the lights dimmed, the Jeopardy! think music started, and I just stared at the clue on the game board. I could only think of one thing, yet the answer seemed too obvious. Would they really give such an easy question? Or was it a trick? I went over the answer again and again in my head, thinking of who else it could possibly be. What other historic figure is associated with divorce more than Henry VIII? After thinking for maybe 15 seconds, I wrote down Henry VIII, my gut reaction. I said to myself, "Stop overanalyzing the question, just write it!" When time ran out, Alex said it was a "Famous English king" and my heart just started pounding. I knew I got it.
He revealed Andrew's answer; he got it right and risked all but a dollar, ending with $18399. When he got to me, he said, "And onto Ariella. You seemed to have had some difficulty with this question, let's see what you put," and revealed my answer, which was correct! I was told that getting the correct answer in Final Jeopardy! was the first time I had really smiled the entire game, and I ended with $18401. Patrick answered correctly as well and won the game with $24001.
After our totals were calculated and Patrick was declared the winner, all I could think of was, "Did I have enough? Was my score enough for a wild card spot?"
Alex started announcing the semifinalists, and said, "Let's see the winners of the four previous quarterfinal games!" Video clips of the four students that had won their quarterfinal games flashed on the screen, each stating their name and school. Then Alex said, "And those all-important wild card spots!" Only two players were shown on the screen. I looked around for a moment, confused. What happened? What did that mean? Aren't there four wild card spots?
I then heard Alex say something like, "You may have noticed that there were only two students announced as wild cards. That's because the other two are up here on stage! Andrew and Ariella, you've advanced to the semifinals!"
Andrew and I had earned the last two wild card spots - we both advanced to the semifinals! I later learned that I had the highest wild card score and Andrew had the second-highest. We just stood there thrilled and ecstatic, wearing smiles a mile wide. I was so relieved. Andrew and I hugged each other and we all walked downstage to talk with Alex as the audience applauded when the "credits" usually roll. We chatted about how a lot of what we had talked about in the green room were answers to some of the clues, and how I said that all three of us would advance: I had no idea that my comment in the green room, about how all three of us would be semifinalists, would become a reality.
I was so relieved and proud of myself - my main goal was just to make it to the semifinals. I wasn't looking to take it all or even win my quarterfinal game; I just wanted to advance so I could give it another go. I was nervous about the semifinals, but I was just so happy that I had gotten through the quarterfinals. I was looking forward to playing my semifinal game the next day.
Ariella Goldstein Blog Entry 1
May 4, 2009
My name is Ariella Goldstein and I grew up in Cortlandt Manor, New York - a town about an hour train ride north of New York City. I'm currently a junior at Muhlenberg College, a small liberal arts school in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I'm majoring in American Studies and double minoring in music and Jewish Studies, and I hope to work either as a curator or researcher in a museum or as a professor after I get my degree(s), the amount of which, either one, two, or three, is uncertain at this point.
I've been playing piano for twelve years and clarinet for ten and a half. I have a great interest in music, American culture, and movies, as I love watching movies, analyzing them, and "taking them in."
I've always wanted to be a contestant on Jeopardy! - it's always been one of my dreams to stand at the podium, signaling button in hand, and ring in with my response in the form of a question. When I was 14, I received Jeopardy! on CD-ROM as a gift, and thus spent countless hours in front of the computer, playing the game and typing in the answers on the screen. I felt that because I had so much knowledge of "useless" information (as my friends call it) and trivia, I might some day be able to put it to good use. I've memorized world capitals, Academy Award winners, and numerous bits and pieces of information throughout my lifetime, and I hoped that it would come in handy for me one day.
My sophomore year of college I suddenly had the idea of registering for the College Jeopardy! online contestant exam. I advanced and auditioned in New York City, and although I didn't make it, I knew I would try again the following school year - I still had hope!
I spent the fall 2008 semester in Washington, DC, as an intern at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, so when the time came to take the College Jeopardy! online contestant exam this year, I comfortably situated myself in my Arlington apartment and took the exam. When it was all over, I was unsure of whether or not I had done well, but when I received the email a week later inviting me to audition, I was relieved.
My audition was originally scheduled to be in Boston, however since I was away from school for the semester, I contacted Jeopardy! and they were able to switch my audition location from Boston to right in Washington, DC, at the St. Regis Hotel.
The morning of my audition, I took the Metro three stops to McPherson Square and walked to the St. Regis Hotel. When I got to the hotel, the entire street in front of the hotel was blocked off by police: nobody was allowed through. Apparently the Russian president was staying there, so I, along with other College Jeopardy! hopefuls, waited outside in the morning drizzle until he and his police escort left and the street was unblocked. When I was finally allowed inside, I acquainted myself with the other students and entered the audition room, where Maggie and her crew were waiting for us. I took the second contestant exam, participated in the mock game, and was interviewed. I left the hotel feeling really confident, as I knew I did the best I could do. All I could do now was wait.
At around 8 PM on March 20, I received a call on my cell phone from an unfamiliar number, so I answered it. A man's voice responded with, "Hi, this is Glenn from Jeopardy!" and he started reading off the information I had written down on my audition sheet, verifying if it was accurate. He asked me to verify my college address and took down more information - looking back on it, it's all such a blur, as my head was spinning. When he said, "You're flying out to Los Angeles on Easter Sunday, I hope that's alright," I knew it was true. "You're competing in our College Jeopardy! Championship in Los Angeles!" I sat in front of the computer, opened a Word document, and started typing out all the information he was giving me. He then said, "Call your mother, she's going ballistic."
I hung up the phone and screamed.
Jeopardy! had called my home first, as I had not leave my cell phone number on the audition sheet. So my parents found out before I did. I called home and went over everything with my parents. I maintained correspondence with Jeopardy! to make sure everything would work out and go smoothly, "as planned."
A few days before I received the call, I had thought, "It's mid-March, I guess I didn't make it on College Jeopardy! this year." It was ironic how that thought had crossed my mind just prior to receiving the call.
I told all my friends and professors, and even emailed several teachers I had back in high school, middle school, and elementary school to let them know the good news.
I have been preparing for the College Jeopardy! Championship since I got the call, doing the majority of my studying in the week that followed to allow all the information to settle in my brain. Not only have I been playing the Jeopardy! computer game, but I've also been lucky enough to have stumbled upon a Jeopardy! fan-based website that has archived Jeopardy! questions and answers. So I've been studying up using some of these questions and answers, both to refresh my memory and learn new content, as well as to serve as guidelines for what I should expect on the show. In studying up on this way, I now feel as if I know what to expect in terms of content and subject matter. I've also been reading up on blogs from former contestants in how to operate the buzzer and how I should prepare myself for showtime.
For the occasion, I got a brand-new, red Muhlenberg sweatshirt with bright white lettering to wear on the show. I hope it looks good on television!