She will play against Kayla Kalhor, who is from Longwood and is a sophomore at UF, and Nathaniel Miller, a sophomore at Yale, who’s from Miami.
Tallahassee vs. Gainesville vs. Miami? Sort of.
Florida State University junior Sophie Casarico, a creative writing major, is competing in this year's "Jeopardy!" College Championship, which starts Monday and runs through April 17.
Casarico, who is from St. Augustine, faces two other Florida college students as opponents Tuesday.
She will play against Kayla Kalhor, who is from Longwood and is a sophomore at the University of Florida, and Nathaniel Miller, a sophomore at Yale, who’s from Miami.
Casarico had only three weeks between getting the call that she’d been chosen for the show and the taping in early February. She said she had to sneak in studying for "Jeopardy!" — and watching previous episodes of the College Championships — around her college classwork.
"I made flashcards or used Quizlet to study the elements of the periodic table, world capitals, U.S. presidents – basically anything that could be filed under the umbrella of general knowledge," she said. "But there really is only so much you can cram in during such a short time period."
She said her strong topics are pop culture, especially movies, musicals and television. And being an English major, she felt good about potential literature or history questions.
Florida landmark stumps ‘Jeopardy!’ contestants
"Science is less of my strong suit, so I hoped I wouldn't encounter anything really advanced," Casarico said. "And of course – cliche nerdy contestant response – I was not looking forward to a sports category."
She did manage to get some personal advice from a kindred spirit.
"Before I flew to Los Angeles, I spoke to Laurel Lathrop, a Ph.D. creative writing student at FSU who won a few episodes last year," said Casarico. "She also said she hadn't really had much of a strategy when she competed, and really the most important thing was just to buzz in quickly."
What does Casarico think about representing FSU in an all-Florida episode?
"You don't find out who else is in the tournament, or what schools are competing, until the day of," she said. "I met everybody in the lobby the morning of the taping, so when I saw Kayla's UF sweatshirt, I was pretty suspicious. I knew they wouldn't resist the rivalry."
Turns out, the three Floridians have become friends.
"Meeting all the other contestants was the most unexpected highlight of the championship," Casarico said. "They're some of the smartest, nicest, funniest people I've ever met. … We're all constantly messaging each other and sending each other dumb memes. We've even used Zoom a few times to all videochat together, so even though we all go to different schools and are from different home towns, we're still connected during all this craziness.
The "craziness" has kept Casarico in St. Augustine with her family, instead of at FSU where she planned to be when the show aired. And in this new era of social distancing, she won’t be having any big watch parties.
"It's kind of funny, I've been telling all my friends and professors to watch me on TV — and I'm sure they would've anyway — but they really don't have anything better to do with this pandemic keeping everyone inside."
Casarico meets host Alex Trebek (whom she described as "really lovely" and said he "seemed like he was in great health") at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday on WCTV, the local CBS affiliate that carries the show. The winner of the 10-day tournament claims a $100,000 grand prize and a spot in the show’s next Tournament of Champions.
The "Jeopardy!" College Championship is 10-day special event featuring 15 of America’s sharpest students. The winner claims the $100,000 grand prize and a berth in the next Tournament of Champions. (Photo: Carol Kaelson)