Updated on Feb. 15 at 10:45 p.m.
By Samuel Kim, news correspondent
Senior chemistry major Clarissa Santori fulfilled one of her lifelong dreams by competing in the latest Jeopardy! College Championship, which airs on CBS (WBZ) through this week. She came in third place in one of five quarterfinal episodes with $14,000 Wednesday night.
Santori competed against Alex Bourzutschky from the California Institute of Technology, who won with $23,599, and Mari Hanley from Stetson University in Florida, who came in second with $16,201. Bourzutschky will advance to the semifinal round, while Hanley and Santori will be awarded $5,000 for participating.
“It was such a crazy and fun experience,” Santori said before the tournament aired. “It’s going to be weird seeing myself on national TV, but I am very thankful for getting this opportunity to do something I have always dreamed of.”
Santori’s appearance in the tournament marked the second year Northeastern was represented on Jeopardy!, after current third-year political science and communication studies combined major Kate Laubscher competed in 2016.
Santori, who is from Ellicott City, Maryland, has been watching Jeopardy! nearly every night for the past several years. She answers as many questions as she can, even keeping track of her scores. This routine is something her suitemate, junior physical therapy major Victoria Ruvolo, finds comical.
“Wherever she is in the apartment at 7:30, she is most likely going to be watching Jeopardy! and answering questions,” Ruvolo said. “She is just so enthusiastic about Jeopardy!.”
Santori said one night in September when she was watching the show and answering questions, the producers announced that the test for the College Championship was coming up.
Though she was initially unsure if she wanted to take the test, she said her friends pointed out that there was no harm in trying.
“I just took the test on a whim,” Santori said. “I didn’t get to see my score, but about a week later, I got an e-mail inviting me to audition in person in New York.”
She said she went to New York City in October with a friend and spent a whole morning auditioning through a written test, a mock game and an interview. A few weeks later, she received a phone call at work.
“When I saw that the call was from Culver City, California, I was so excited,” she said. “I told myself, ‘This is it, this is definitely it.’”
Santori was right. A month or so later, she found herself blinking in the bright lights of the studio in Los Angeles, donning a red and black Northeastern sweatshirt.
“I wasn’t surprised at all when Clarissa told me that she was going to be on Jeopardy!.” said Fiona Laux, a close friend of Santori and a junior political science and international affairs double major. “She is just so full of information and energy, so it was really fitting for Clarissa to be competing on Jeopardy!.”
Though Santori had to miss the first week of spring semester classes to compete, she said she did not mind at all. She wanted to fully enjoy the unique experience.
“When the episode was taping, it went by in the blink of an eye,” Santori said. “It was a very different experience from just yelling the questions out loud at home. I thought I would be very nervous because of that, but I wasn’t. I actually had a lot of fun.”
Participants competed in categories including Shakespearean plays, police terminology, general science and islands.
Santori said one of her favorite moments was when Alex Trebek, Jeopardy!’s host, read questions pertaining to pop culture.
“It was so funny because he didn’t get some of the references in the pop culture questions [that] we college students did,” Santori said. “Everyone thought that was so funny.”
Santori also said she enjoyed spending time with students from colleges located all over the country, especially students who shared her love for Jeopardy!. She said the competitors bonded very well, and even made a group chat after everyone flew back home.
“Everyone was so supportive and friendly,” Santori said. “We all had so much fun answering the questions, and just wanted to do it again when it was all over.”
Photo courtesy of Jeopardy! Productions Inc.