Saturday, August 28, 1999

Teen to take on 'Jeopardy!'

Student from Erlanger one of 15 selected

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Jack Challis, a senior at Villa Madonna Academy, will appear on Jeopardy.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
        ERLANGER — The category is Northern Kentucky celebrities. Answer: The Villa Madonna Academy senior whose dream to be a contestant on Jeopardy! will soon be fulfilled.

        Question: Who is Jack Challis?

        This 17-year-old from Erlanger was recently selected as one of 15 teens nationwide to compete in the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament in September.

        “I remember watching it when I was younger but not knowing all that much,” Jack said.

        His first memories of watching the show were when he was in third grade.

        “It was one time my parents and I could discuss things,” he said. “They always had a story for everything.”

        The young man, who has been a school Academic Team member since sixth grade, said preparing for the show is not like cramming for a test. It's the culmination of what he has learned his entire academic career.

        “From my point of view, questions in Academic Team are harder than the questions on Jeopardy!” he said.

        That's because there's a lot more math in Academic Team competition.

        As for Jeopardy!, he's used to firing off who wrote this and who made that. “It takes a lot of reading,” he said.

        Reading is not all Jack does. He was twice a representative at the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., and participated in national and state competitions in Latin, French and math.

        He is also an Eagle Scout, a member of his school's tennis team and he plays the piano.

        “Don't get the idea that I only sit in my room and read National Geographic,” he said.

        His diversity of interests is what makes him interesting, his mother, Emily Challis, said.

        “He can go out and build a campfire, turn around and play the piano and then go out again and play a game of tennis,” she said.

        Jack said he's hoping for categories in American or European history or geography, his best subjects. The category he fears? Pop culture.

        “There is a lot about the entertainment category I know nothing about, especially before my birth,” he said.

        Jack and a family member will leave Sept. 12 for the first round of the tournament, which is in Los Angeles. Even if he doesn't make it to the semifinals, he's guaranteed $2,500.

        If he makes the final round in New York in October, that's where big money comes in. The first-place winner will receive $25,000. Second place will be guaranteed $15,000 or the two-game total, whichever is larger; the third-place finisher is guaranteed $10,000 or the two-game total.

        His academic team members and coach are rooting him on.

        “We practice as a team for our competitions and lately we've had Jack compete against the rest of the team so he can practice buzzing in,” said Shelly Rodenkirchen, his coach. “He's the kind of kid who wants to learn for the sake of learning.”


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