It started with a test, and Haley Batz is good at tests.
“I've never had a B actually in high school,” admits the straight-A senior at Providence High School.
Last year, she saw an invitation to try out for the annual Teen Tournament on “Jeopardy!” and gave it a shot.
It was an online test offered nationally. Teens had only seven seconds to fill in answers, then move on to the next question.
Then, 1,000 top scorers were invited to auditions. From there, 15 were selected. Batz was one. Her appearance on the long-running game show airs Thursday at 7 p.m. on WCNC (Channel 36).
Whether she won the $75,000 grand prize will be a secret until the weeklong tournament ends Friday. But if you ask her how she did – putting the answer in the form of a question, of course, it would be “What are the jitters?”
“I was so nervous … the buzzer is really hard to ring in on. A few times I think I buzzed in when I didn't mean to just because my hands were shaking,” says Batz, 17.
Taping took two days in Hollywood and initially, it was a case of nerves for all 15 contestants. When the others tried to make small talk after first meeting, Batz found it irritating.
“We were driving each other crazy. I just couldn't stand these kids. By the second day, we all became such good friends. All the pressure went away.”
Batz moved to South Charlotte in July when her mother and about 300 other Daimler employees were transferred from Portland, Ore., to the truck-builder's new office in Fort Mill.
She says changing high schools was tough, but Providence – where she's active in choir – has been a great place to land. “It's a lot more welcoming of a school than the one I used to go to … I made a ton of friends.”
What impressed some of her pals most was that “Jeopardy!” had two Hollywood make-up artists. “For some of my girlfriends that was the most exciting thing – not that I was on national TV, but had a makeup artist!”
Batz, a self-described science nerd, hopes to study medicine in college. She recently visited UNC Chapel Hill and fell in love at first sight.
She skipped her afternoon visit to Duke, and spent the next 12 hours in her hotel room knocking out an application to beat the next day's deadline for early enrollment.
Batz says she didn't try to study for the tournament. Aside from pop culture questions, most of the material was already covered in school.
“A lot of it is remembering what that seventh-grade U.S. history teacher said.”
She spent a lot of time in the last year watching “Jeopardy!” though. And she's a little “Jeopardy!”-ed out. She thinks she'll give it a rest for a while. “I've really had a little too much.”
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Mark Washburn: 704-358-5007; firstname.lastname@example.org