Theresa O’Shea ’16 is a semifinalist on this season of Jeopardy! College Championship, which premiered Wednesday night. O’Shea came in first place in Wednesday night’s round.
“I’ve been interested in trivia for a really long time. I do Mathey College Trivia every Monday, and then one day I realized that it was possible for me to go on the show and meet Alex Trebek and compete,” O’Shea said. “I took the online college trivia test, and I was lucky enough to be selected to go to an interview in New York."
O’Shea said that she was informed that she would be on the show about six months after her interview in New York, and in January she was flown out to Los Angeles with her fellow competitors to begin filming. She added that she was surprised at being selected for the show because it was her first time trying out, noting that many others have to try out three or four times before being selected.
O’Shea is also a cartoonist for The Daily Princetonian.
Some of her fellow attendees of Mathey College Trivia Night said they thought it made sense O’Shea was chosen.
“I can’t say that I was surprised [that O’Shea was chosen] because she’s really good at trivia,” Kelly Rafey ’16, a fellow attendee of Mathey College Trivia Nights, said. “It’s always exciting to know someone on trivia, and to be able to say that you have played trivia with that person is an added bonus.”
Rafey is also a staff writer for the Street section of the ‘Prince’.
“She’s such a perfect candidate for the show because she’s obviously incredibly smart and also very personable,” Emma Boettcher ’14, who has previously auditioned for Jeopardy! College Championship, said. “Sometimes you get kind of arrogant people in Jeopardy that are just obsessed with showing off how smart they are, and Terry’s not like that all.”
The first place winner of Jeopardy! College Championship wins $100,000, the second place wins $50,000, the third place wins $25,000, the semifinalists win $10,000 and the quarterfinalists win $5,000. There are 15 competitors on the show in total.
Though O’Shea is only guaranteed a spot on Wednesday’s show, she does have the opportunity to win some Jeopardy! prize money. However, O’Shea said that, for her, much of the excitement of being on the show comes from the experience itself.
“The producers were fantastic, and there were a lot of people from different schools who were just as interested in trivia as I am. It was terrifying, of course, especially when I was playing and in the time leading up to the game, but I was surrounded by the most really intelligent, nice and wonderful people,” O’Shea said. “It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Just being back here at Princeton, it’s hard to believe that it even happened.”
O’Shea noted that she prepared for the show using the J! Archive, an online archive of all the questions and answers asked on Jeopardy, as well as Wikipedia.
“I know you’re not supposed to cram, but I didn’t really have a choice. I also tried to learn about subjects that I was very unfamiliar with, like opera,” O’Shea said. “I knew I wasn’t going to get very far with sports, so I just gave that up as a lost cause and didn’t study sports.”
Rafey said she’s always noticed that O’Shea was talented during Mathey Trivia Nights.
“I think last year she memorized all of the winners of the best movies from the Oscars just for Trivia Night,” Rafey said. “She is definitely an anomaly.”
O’Shea credits her love for trivia to her exposure from a young age.
“I’ve always loved trivia. My family loves to watch trivia together. We all try to yell out the answers before everyone else,” O’Shea said. “It’s kind of competitive but also extremely fun. So basically since I was born, ever since I was conceived, ever since I existed, I’ve loved trivia.”
O’Shea, who applied to compete on the show during the spring of her freshman year, said that she has some experience competing in formal trivia competitions because she competed for her high school’s academic Quiz Bowl team. Though O’Shea is not allowed to tell anyone how far she gets in the show, Rafey noted that her fellow Trivia Night participants intended to watch the premiere together in her honor.