NEW BOSTON — Goffstown High School senior Kat Deabill didn’t win the grand prize on this year’s “Jeopardy!” Teen Tournament, but looking back on her run through the semifinal round — including a moment that turned into a viral Internet clip — she has no regrets.
“During the semifinals, I was like, ’Is this really happening?’” she recalled. “It was just surreal.”
Deabill, 16, was accepted to be one of 15 contestants in the game show’s annual Teen Tournament. Filming took place earlier this year in Culver City, Calif., and the tournament began airing on July 21.
During the quarterfinals, Deabill got her 15 minutes of fame when she answered a question in the “Slang-tastic” category correctly. When host Alex Trebek asked, “One term for talking trash about someone is ‘throwing’ this, like a big elm tree might do,” she responded, “What is shade?” and got the answer right. Deabill was not prepared, however, for a massive response on social media.
“From what I understand, (that phrase) kind of came from the African-American LGBT community,” she said. “Of all the questions that were on there, I didn’t think people would react so strongly to that being on there.”
But react they did. The clip of Deabill that question got nearly 60,000 shares, so far, on the blogging platform Tumblr, and a certain pop superstar even shared it through her Instagram account.
“I had eight or nine notifications (on my phone) of people telling me, ‘Oh my gosh, Lady Gaga just posted a video of you!’” she said, adding that the singer’s social media post had gotten 70,000 likes. “I honestly didn’t believe them, but then somebody linked it (to me) … I just thought it was awesome that Lady Gaga watches ‘Jeopardy!’”
Pop culture references aside, Deabill said she was well prepared for the questions she answered.
“One of the categories we got on my quarterfinal game was U.S. history, (and) I’d taken a year of AP U.S. history, so I joked around with my teacher, who actually came to the viewing, and I said, ‘I studied a whole year for this category!’” she said.
Though Deabill did not have the highest score in her quarterfinal game, she was able to advance to the semis thanks to being chosen as a wildcard contestant.
“I didn’t (think I’d advance), honestly, because I got the Final Jeopardy question wrong,” she said. “My score had dropped … (to) 14,000, which is still pretty good, but wildcards are usually a little bit higher.”
Deabill was surprised when she learned she would be advancing but admits she felt disappointed when she did not advance past the semis.
“I kind of kept going over in my head, ‘If I’d answered that question correctly,’ or ‘If I’d wagered this much, maybe I would’ve had a shot,’ but, I mean, honestly, I was so happy to have made it that far,” she said. “I was kind of relieved a little bit, too … It was really stressful at the end.”
After her run ended, Deabill participated in two “Ask Me Anything” posts on the popular social networking site Reddit — one by herself and another with her fellow contestants — where many “Jeopardy!” fans asked questions about Deabill, what it’s like to be on the show, and the infamous “shade” question.
“That was a lot of fun, because there were a lot of very interesting questions that we hadn’t really thought about, like, ‘Well, if you could be on any other game show, what would you want to be on and why?’” she said.
For the record, as a former contestant Deabill may not compete on “Jeopardy!” again, and if she were to do another game show, she’d love to be on “Minute to Win It.”
Looking back on her run, Deabill has many fond memories, made lifelong friends, and would encourage anyone else who wants to be on the show to give it a try.
“Just learn as you watch and pretend to buzz in,” she said. “And just take the online (qualifying) test. It seems like a small chance, but if you’re really passionate about it and keep taking the test, eventually, if you practice enough and get good enough, you can go to the audition, and it’s honestly incredible … Just keep trying.”