FAIRBORN — This year’s ‘Jeopardy! College Tournament’ — a game show that pits college students from around the nation against each other in a fast-paced war of knowledge — will include a Wright State University student.
Emily Bingham, a senior double majoring in literature and marketing, will be among the 15 contestants competing Jan. 5-6 at Sony Pictures Studios’ Stage 10 in Culver City, California. The shows will be broadcast in early February.
“This has been my dream since I was in high school,” said Bingham, of Englewood. “It’s finally happening.”
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Hosted by Alex Trebek, “Jeopardy!” features a quiz competition in which contestants are given knowledge clues in the form of answers and must respond with the questions. The show employs nine writers and five researchers to create and assemble the categories and clues.
With 7,000 episodes aired, the daily syndicated version of “Jeopardy!” has won a record 31 Daytime Emmy Awards and was ranked No. 45 on TV Guide’s list of the 60 greatest shows in American television history.
When Bingham was a junior at Northmont High School, she joined Quiz Bowl, a competition that tests teams of players on their knowledge of a wide variety of academic subjects.
“The thing about Quiz Bowl is nobody comes in being good; it’s not something you can be good at automatically,” she said. “I was very discouraged at first. But then I realized if I started studying at this, I could be good.”
Bingham became good fast. By the end of her senior year, she was on the varsity Quiz Bowl team, which was ranked No. 13 in the country.
“It’s not just knowing stuff. It’s being able to know stuff before somebody else knows it and being able to grab it from whatever part of your brain it’s in, immediately,” she said. “That took some training.”
Each of the four Quiz Bowl players has a special area of knowledge. Bingham’s was literature.
She broadened her knowledge by doing a lot of reading, especially short stories and poetry. She memorized the titles and authors of about 200 books and then began digging deeper into the characters.
Her Quiz Bowl experience got her thinking that she might be good at “Jeopardy!” so she began taking the online “Jeopardy!” tests in high school. But she could never pass them.
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Bingham was valedictorian in high school. In addition to Quiz Bowl, she was a volunteer at Clubhouse, a program that works with inner-city elementary school kids after school and during the summer.
When she arrived at Wright State in 2011, Bingham realized that besides knowledge about literature she had also pick up a little bit of science, history and art along the way. She has since become more knowledgeable in psychology, sociology and anthropology. And she got even more practice when she founded a Quiz Bowl team at Wright State.
Bingham is also editor of The Fogdog Review, the campus’ literary review magazine. She was active in Student Government, serving as director of campus culture, and was secretary of the Dean’s Student Advisory Board in the College of Liberal Arts. She currently works at Wright State’s Center for Urban and Public Affairs and is a marketing intern at the Wright State Alumni Association.
Bingham won a valedictorian scholarship as well as a Top Honors scholarship, which requires her to complete an undergraduate thesis. As a literature and marketing major, she is open to a career in publishing but is also exploring other options.
Earlier this year, Bingham finally passed the online “Jeopardy!” quiz, which involves 50 questions that each must be answered within 10 seconds. In November, she was invited to an in-person tryout at the Le Méridien Columbus hotel in Ohio’s capital city. There was a written test, a personality interview and a mock “Jeopardy!” competition with buzzers.
“There are a lot of little mechanical things that you wouldn’t have expected,” Bingham said. “You have to wait until Alex Trebek is done reading, a light comes on, and you have to buzz when you see the light. If you buzz before you see the light, you get locked out. That was really difficult for people to pick up.”
Bingham walked away from the tryout disappointed in her performance. But in early December, she got a late-night phone call from a “Jeopardy!” producer.
“I was really, really sick,” she recalled. “It was 10 p.m., and I was about to go to bed.”
It was then that she learned she would compete in the “Jeopardy! College Tournament.”
“My mom was standing next to me the whole time. I got to celebrate with her after I hung up,” said Bingham, who plans to proudly wear a Wright State sweatshirt during the tournament games.
The tournament uses a 10-game format: 15 players, in groups of three, play in five quarterfinal games; the winners of those five games and the four highest-scoring non-winners become the nine semifinalists who compete in three games. The three semifinal winners advance to the two-day final round, in which contestants play two separate matches, with the contestants’ combined scores for both matches determining the champion.
Bingham is very knowledgeable about literature, opera and visual art. But she could be stronger in history and acknowledges that she doesn’t know very much about pop culture.
In the next few weeks, Bingham plans to increase her knowledge of facts she can quickly memorize such as those about U.S. presidents, universities and geography — world capitals, rivers and mountains. She intends to spend a lot of time with Wikipedia entries and hopes to get friends to drill her.
She also intends to practice her “buzzing” skills at home, using equipment she has from Quiz Bowl.
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