McCormick freshman to appear on Jeopardy this April


Photo courtesy of Carolyn Cole/TNS

Alex Trebek, the host of “Jeopardy!” McCormick Freshman Beni Keown will appear on “Jeopardy!” in early April.

Austin Benavides, Campus Editor

It started off on a whim.

It was about 10 p.m. last October when McCormick freshman Beni Keown decided to take the 50-question entry test to see if he could qualify for “Jeopardy!” 

Keown didn’t know that his late night submission would eventually lead him to compete in this year’s “Jeopardy!” College Championship against 14 other students from universities across the country for a $100,000 grand prize and a spot on the next Tournament of Champions. 

“I wasn’t very prepared, but I went through it, and I thought I did well enough,” Keown said, “At every stage of the process, I didn’t expect to get through. After the test, I thought ‘that was fun, but I’m probably not going to get like doing the next part.’ After the audition, I thought it was a good experience, but I’m probably not actually going to get on the show — and I ended up being on.”

Keown is a member of the Northwestern Quizbowl team and was a part of his high school Quizbowl team at Evanston Township High School. He said he was motivated to try out for the entry exam after fellow Quizbowl member and “Jeopardy!” veteran Jack Izzo, a Medill freshman, told Keown to try out. 

A month after taking the entry test, Keown received an email letting him know that he passed and he was invited to attend an in-person audition in St. Louis. 

The audition stage was his first opportunity to survey who he might compete against on the show. For Keown, it wasn’t the trivia that made him unsure — it was the personal interview. 

“They asked me a couple of questions just about myself,” he said. “And afterwards, I thought that I’d answered every one of them poorly. I thought that I wasn’t as outgoing enough in the interview, but I guess it worked out fine.”

In mid-January, Keown learned he was accepted to compete for the college championship.  

Throughout each stage, Keown said he was more excited than nervous. The nerves didn’t set in for him until about 30 minutes before he went on stage, when he had the realization that this time he wasn’t following along with “Jeopardy!” like when he was younger. This time, he was playing for real.

Despite the pressure, Keown said, being able to appear on “Jeopardy!” and win a cash prize was a “great opportunity.” 

“It was kind of like I had already won just by getting there,” Keown said.Of the 15 college championship competitors, Keown is the only freshman. During the competition, he said, Keown didn’t feel any different about his performance as compared to the older competitors.

Communication junior Jack Drummond, president of the NU Quizbowl team,said it was “awesome” his teammate made it. Regardless of Keown’s age, Drummond said he believes that he will hold his own during the competition. 

“It doesn’t matter how old you are, it matters how much you know, and he knows a whole lot,” Drummond said.

Drummond added that Keown’s trivia skill really came through during their most recent Quizbowl competition against Purdue on Feb. 8 where Keown was the top scorer out of the whole tournament. 

McCormick freshman Ben Timmins has known Keown since high school, where he also competed on the ETHS Quizbowl team. He said Keown is an all-around trivia player and is good at “pretty much everything.”

Timmins said he remembered the excitement Keown felt throughout the process of making it on to “Jeopardy!”

“He seemed to be sort of playing it cool — I think that he was in shock…he was actually going,” Timmins said. “Me and all of our friends were really excited for him.”

“Jeopardy’s!” College Championships will air April 6. Keown, along with the Quizbowl team, will be watching the episodes together. 

“ I just stay curious, if somebody says something that interests me I’ll read the Wikipedia article about it afterwards,” Keown said, “And that gets me pretty far.”

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Twitter: @awstinbenavides

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