Northwestern freshman advances to semifinals of “Jeopardy!” College Championship, guaranteed wildcard spot


Courtesy of Beni Keown

Beni Keown posing with Jeopardy host Alex Trebek. Keown qualified for the semi finals of the “Jeopardy!” 2020 College Championship” in an episode that aired Thursday.

Hannah Feuer, Reporter

McCormick freshman Beni Keown guaranteed himself a wildcard spot in the semifinals of the 2020 “Jeopardy!” College Championship after placing second in the quarterfinal matchup, which aired Thursday.

Keown, who is the season’s only freshman contestant, ended the match with $15,800 — enough money to qualify for a wildcard spot even if contestants in other quarterfinal matchups score higher. Joe Coker, a junior at Hendrix College, won the match with $30,200.

“I was pretty happy with my performance for the most part, but I was disappointed in some of my wrong answers.” Keown said. “I was just aiming to hit $15,000, so I got off the stage happy.”

Keown started off strong, with an $1,800 lead after the first half of the show. After answering two Daily Doubles incorrectly, he lost $6,000. But heading into Final Jeopardy, Keown found himself just $400 short of the lead. Though he answered the Final Jeopardy question correctly, his wager of just $1000 — a strategic move — wasn’t enough to take the lead.

“In the Final Jeopardy, I was pretty sure I would make it through if I didn’t bet anything,” Keown said. “But I wanted to bet a little bit, just in case Joe didn’t bet anything.”

While he wasn’t particularly nervous taping the show in February, Keown said he was nervous today to watch himself on television. His family watched the episode together, and though separated, groups of his friends around the country planned watch parties.

After the match aired, Keown’s voluminous red hair became a topic of discussion on Twitter. One fan even created an account dedicated to it.

“There is a ginger god on jeopardy today (college week),” one account tweeted, a description Keown retweeted, saying, “that has to be the best one yet.”

Keown added he was “weirdly nervous” today, despite knowing the results of the pre-taped performance.

“I was nervous to see how I would come across on TV,” Keown said. “But Twitter’s reaction after my game has been pretty funny.”

During a game break in the episode, Keown briefly discussed with host Alex Trebek a project his engineering class had been working on: redesigning the existing wheelchair leg rest lever.

Keown said the best part of being on Jeopardy was meeting the other contestants.

“It’s really great to have people to watch Jeopardy with that have all gone through the experience,” he said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @hannah_feuer

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