Dover native Sarah Stevens has always had a knack for trivia, a skill she attributes to her active sense of curiosity and desire to know as much as she can about the world around her.
Sarah put her trivia skills to the test earlier this year when she competed in the "Jeopardy! College Championship," which aired on ABC Monday night.
The University of Delaware sophomore had a lot of ups and downs during her game of "Jeopardy!" She finished the first round with a negative cash balance, but redeemed herself in the second round and was back in black by the time Final Jeopardy rolled around.
The final "Jeopardy!" question asked contestants to identify the island on which scientists had recently discovered volcanic activity. Sarah instantly wrote down Sicily, but the waiting got to her and she changed her answer.
"I had all this time to stand there and think about it," Stevens said. "I just thought, 'It can't be that easy.'" So, she crossed out her answer. In the end, however, Sicily was correct, and Stevens was knocked out of the championship.
Stevens said she has had time to get over her mistake, but watching her friends react to the outcome when the episode aired was painful.
"I wanted to crawl under my chair and cry," she said. "It was worse having people react to it than it was to see it."
Even though she didn't make it to the next round in the championship, she still walked away with $5,000, which she plans to use to finance a semester aboard in London.
The journey that led the 20-year-old Stevens to appear on "Jeopardy!" began in November 2012 when she took a 50-question online test to qualify for the quiz show. In spring 2013, she received an email inviting her to travel to New York City for an interview and further testing; she headed to the Big Apple that April.
Stevens, along with 200 other college students, took a second 50-question quiz, participated in mock game play and participated in an interview. She didn't hear anything from the producers of "Jeopardy" for months after the interview portion.
"I had put it out of my mind as something awesome that had happened to me," she said. "It was just a cool little tidbit that I could say I had auditioned for 'Jeopardy!'"
Around Thanksgiving, Sarah received the call she had been waiting for; she had qualified to travel to California and compete in the "Jeopardy! College Championship." After a few minutes of stunned silence, she locked herself in her dorm room at UD and proceeded to literally jump for joy.
"I was beside myself, I was so happy," she said. "I've been watching "Jeopardy!" since I was a kid. It hit me all at once that I was going to be one of those people that got to answer questions and talk to Alex."
Page 2 of 2 - Her mother, Jill Stevens, wasn't surprised at all that her daughter had made the cut.
"She's very smart," Jill Stevens said. "She's a good student and she's really great at trivia. She knows a little bit about a lot of things."
In early January, Sarah traveled to California, stepped up to her podium on the set of "Jeopardy!" and began living out one of her lifelong dreams.
"That moment in between standing up at my podium and the announcer starting to say the opening to "Jeopardy!," everything became so real," she said. "I felt very present. So many people I had watched on TV from my living room had been here and now I'm here."
Sarah spent almost seven hours in the studio on the day of filming and when it was all said and done she knew where she stood, but she couldn't tell anyone else. She and her parents, who were in the studio for the filming, were the only ones who were allowed to know the outcome of the game until her episode aired this Monday. It was a challenge, she said, but the weight was lifted Monday night.
Regardless of the outcome of her time on "Jeopardy!", Sarah walked away with more than just money in her pocket.
"The thing I've taken away is that win or lose I have gained such an amazing insight into myself because it helped me grow as a student and as a person," she said. "I used to think of myself as a trivia weirdo, but meeting other people who are so similar and who just instantly get it is very redeeming, because you know you're not the only one out there."