MU journalism student advances to Jeopardy! College Championship final

Wednesday, May 13, 2009 | 5:31 p.m. CDT; updated 7:46 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 13, 2009

COLUMBIA — Family games of Trivial Pursuit and healthy competition between MU senior Laura Myers and her older brother, Matt, helped her prepare for her so-far successful run on "Jeopardy!", but her personality helped her throughout the competition.

“I really wasn't into strategy,” said Myers, who graduates Saturday with a journalism degree.

If you watch

What: MU journalism senior Laura Myers appears on "Jeopardy!"

When: 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday

Where: KMIZ/Channel 17

After winning the semi-final round of the "Jeopardy! College Championship" aired Wednesday, Myers appears in the final round Thursday and Friday. The shows have been taped, but Myers is contract-bound to keep her lips sealed about the results.

Matt Myers encouraged his sister to apply to the college competition. She took the qualifying test in October 2008 along with 22,000 others and was called in November for an audition in Chicago with two dozen other hopefuls. Myers found out in March that she had been selected to appear on the show.

“My friend and I were jumping around in the driveway, acting like complete idiots,” Myers said.

Before her appearance, she did not prepare much except for playing an old Jeopardy! board game a friend picked up from a thrift store. And when it came time for the shows, which were taped over 12-hour days in mid-April, she was more concerned with her upcoming graduation. Hours before her flight to Los Angeles, she was taking mid-term exams and finishing class projects; she left an assignment on the kitchen table for her roommates to turn in for her.

“My big goal was to win the first game,” Myers said.

Myers said producers asked contestants about school rivalries, and she made it clear the only one that mattered was the well-established one between MU and the University of Kansas. Still, when she played against KU's Mark Petterson, courtesy won out.

“Their attempt at rivalry didn't quite work,” said Myers, who keeps in touch with Petterson and other contestants on Facebook.

Myers said she did not understand why some of the contestants took their eliminations so hard, saying the all-expense paid trip to Los Angeles and $5,000 for appearing on the show would have made the experience worthwhile. Myers said what pressure she felt came from not wanting to let people down in Missouri and at home in Richmond, Va., where her parents received so many calls about her appearance they couldn't sit down to dinner.

In a revelation that might surprise viewers, Myers said getting the timing right for the buzzer was harder than answering the question.

“If you ring in before the lights come on,” she said, "you're locked out, just for a split second, but long enough that someone else will get the question."

Susie Eun, the show's publicity coordinator, agreed.

"A lot of success has to do with the buzzer," Eun said. But she said intelligence and charisma are essential for a contestant's success.

Now that the shows are finally airing, Myers is touched by the response of friends and strangers.

"People keep telling me good luck," she said, adding it's a little weird having a fan group on Facebook.

And though she can't say much, she does acknowledge that a pair of red-soled Christian Louboutin shoes and a trip to South Africa for the World Cup are in her future.

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