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ASU senior competes on collegiate ‘Jeopardy!’

An ASU senior appeared on the quiz show “Jeopardy!” Thursday, winning more than $15,000 and moving on to the semi-final round.

Economics student Marshall Flores competed against 14 other students in the show’s college tournament during a two-day taping in late October.  The episode aired Thursday afternoon.

“I feel really honored,” Flores said. I’m the second person in Arizona to compete [in collegiate ‘Jeopardy!’].”

In Thursday’s episode, the economics senior competed against students from the University of North Dakota and the University of Nebraska.

Flores said his success was all luck.

“Basically, anything can come with a category,” Flores said.

He added that the most difficult part of answering is timing.

“So you kind of have to wait until Alex is done [saying the question], but you have to buzz in before the other two contestants,” Flores said.

Categories ranged from numeric phrases, writers on the move and miscellaneous measurements.

Before the first commercial break, Flores only had $800 but the Double Jeopardy round boosted that amount to $13,000.

He eventually won with more than $15,000 and will move on to the semi-finals airing next week.

Flores has been a lifelong fan of “Jeopardy” since he was 5 years old, watching it with his grandparents in California.

“In my teens, I wanted to go on the show,” Flores said.

Throughout junior high and high school, Flores competed in geography and math meets but didn’t have the time to do academic competitions in college.

In February, Flores and 10,000 other students took an online test to compete in this year’s collegiate “Jeopardy!”

Flores and other top scorers were chosen to go to Los Angeles to do in-person auditions.

“There were three audition groups and I was in the afternoon group,” Flores said.

Students from UCLA, Berkeley and Stanford filled the room while Flores was the only student from Arizona.

The group took another 50-point test and then broke into smaller groups to participate in a mock show.

Flores won.

Students later took part in interviews, giving facts about themselves, answering questions about their hobbies and what they’d do with the money if they won.

“Everyone’s going to school and grad school so paying for tuition was the typical answer,” Flores said. “I said that I’d probably buy the pony that I wanted that I didn’t get.”

The room erupted with laughter, Flores said.

He said what he really wanted to do with the money was travel the world and buy a new computer.

“I had my fingers on permanent cross for three months,” Flores said after he left Los Angeles.

On Sept. 18, he finally got a response.

Maggie Speak, senior contestant coordinator, e-mailed Flores saying that she had been trying to get a hold of him.

When Flores went to check the phone, his mother had disconnected it hoping for silence during a nap.

When Flores spoke with Speak, she asked the question he had been waiting three months for: if he wanted to be on “Jeopardy!”.

“I said, ‘I’d love to be on ‘Jeopardy!’” Flores said.

He prepared for the big day by using three different websites: J-Archive, a website with every Jeopardy clue and question; Sporlce, an online quiz website; and Wikipedia.

Economics and statistics senior Johnathan Tang, a friend of Flores, watched the “Jeopardy!” episode at home.

“He’s the second person to represent Arizona and I think that’s really awesome,” Tang said.

It wasn’t until a month later that Flores and the 14 other contestants started taping for the show.

“Let’s just say watching ‘Jeopardy!’ on TV is nothing like taping on TV,” Flores said. “The stage is much smaller in real life.”

The quarter matches, semi-finals and finals were taped in two days — five episodes per day.

The contestants were split into three groups and were not allowed to see other groups’ competitions, Flores said.

“Not only did we have to tape the tournament but we had to do promos too,” he said.

When contestants weren’t competing, they were stuck in the “green room” where they ate, watched movies and listened to the sound of the audience clapping and cheering, he said.

His parents, sister, aunt, uncle and grandmother all watched him compete.

While the tapings were only two days, the contestants became close friends.

“The 14 other people that I met were amazing and intelligent,” Flores said.

They keep in touch through Facebook, Twitter and webcams.

“Even Alex [Trebek] noticed our special camaraderie,” Flores said.

The group of 14 called themselves the esprit de corps, he said, which translates to spirit of a body.

“We’re all devoted fans to ‘Jeopardy!’ and we all got the chance to live our lifelong dream,” Flores said.

“Jeopardy!” officials told Flores and the other contestants not to talk about the show’s results until after the episodes air.

Flores’ semi-final round will air next week.

The winner of collegiate “Jeopardy!” receives $100,000 and has a chance to compete in the shows Tournament of Champions.

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