Alistair Gray from Sunnyvale already knows whether he is the winner or loser of the $100,000 grand prize in the 2020 JEOPARDY! College Championship. But he is sworn to secrecy until after the quiz show competition airs on television April 6 – 17.
Even Gray’s mom, Anne Ye, doesn’t know whether her middle child won $100,000 or $5,000, the least amount a student takes home. However, Gray’s dad, Malcolm Gray, knows.
His dad was in the audience in Culver City (Los Angeles County) in February when the Jeopardy shows were taped. But his dad can’t tell either, not even his wife.
“One of my professors keeps trying to weasel it out of me,” said Gray, a sophomore at University of California, San Diego, with a double major in computer science and linguistics. “I’m getting a lot of practice in not telling people.”
Taping the show was intense — five shows over two days. Gray and his dad were put up, all expenses paid, at a “fancy hotel.”
“I was petrified. It goes so fast. It was taped at about the same speed as the show,” said Gray. “I was nervous ahead of time, but while you’re doing it, there’s no time to think about how nervous you are.”
Gray, a 2018 graduate of Homestead High School in Cupertino, had a good academic, world knowledge base but had to bone up on pop culture. Plus, he watched old Jeopardy College Championship games.
In high school, Gray participated in the Quiz Bowl, a trivia-based club that competes nationally.
“Quiz Bowl is a little like a pan-nerd convention,” said Gray on Facebook in 2017. “[We are] brought together despite wildly disparate interests through this game we love, and through our one characteristic in common: intellectual curiosity. Call it cliché, but everyone in Quiz Bowl fundamentally has a hunger to learn.”
Gray was one of 18,000 students nationwide who took an online test to qualify for the 2020 JEOPARDY! College Championship. The top 500 were invited to audition. They took another written test, participated in a mock game, and were interviewed to see if they had a TV personality.
Gray, who interviewed in Los Angeles, was one of just 15 students, plus one alternate, who made the final cut.
“I really loved being on Jeopardy. It was a great experience,” said Gray. “My favorite part was meeting the other competitors. They are friendly, smart, knowledgeable. I made great friends, and we’re already in touch.”
Setting a winning tradition, Homestead graduates William Scott placed second in the JEOPARDY College Championship in 2018 and Niki Peters placed second in 2016.
“I want to thank all the teachers who told me I would be great, my parents and everyone along the way who encouraged and supported me in what I love to do,” said Gray.
Now in its 36th season, JEOPARDY!, hosted by Alex Trebek, is the top-rated television quiz show.