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Providence High teen on ‘Jeopardy!' this week

Mark Washburn
mwashburn@charlotteobserver.com
Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.

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.”

Media Movers

Wall-to-wall Christmas music has yet to appear on either WKQC FM (“K” 104.7) or WLYT FM (“Lite” 102.9), but it is back – weekends only, for now – on WRCM FM (“New Life” 91.9). “We're thinking with the way things have been – gas, stocks, Wachovia, election – we need a little Christmas, a little peace, a little hope, a little joy,” says morning host Gary Morland

Former afternoon host on WIBT FM (“The Beat” 96.1) DZL takes over the afternoon drive shift on sister station WEND FM (“The End” 106.5), the spot formerly occupied by Jack Daniel and Kristen Honeycutt. Honeycutt left in September and is now program director on a station in Fayetteville, Ark., and Daniel, a longtime Charlotte personality and WEND's program director, handles the 2 to 4 p.m. slot on “The End” …

WFAE FM (90.7) reporter Simone Orendain was recognized by Region Newswriters Association with a second-place award for her report on the “Families of Abraham” in the 2008 best radio religion reporting competition … Former WSOC (Channel 9) general manager Andy Fisher, now president of Atlanta-based Cox Television, will retire at year's end … Observer social editor Olivia Fortson will help launch “Stars Fell on Spartanburg: Hub City's Celebrity Encounters” at a Hollywood-style party and book signing from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Memorial Auditorium in Spartanburg. “Stars” is a new book from the Hub City Writers Group, a collection of essays by more than 40 Carolinas authors including former Observer columnist Dot Jackson

Meteorologist Doug Lindsay joins Time Warner's News 14 Carolina from the CBS affiliate in Jacksonville, Fla. …

Classical WDAV FM (88.9) will resume its fall fund-raising drive Thursday. It suspended the annual drive during the Wachovia takeover and a plunging stock market, declaring it wasn't the right time to be asking listeners for money. “With the election behind us and a more stabilized economic environment in the region, we're ready to pick up where we left off,” said Benjamin Roe, general manager. WDAV has $106,500 to raise toward its $200,000 goal … Gene Bell has been named to a four-year term on the UNC TV board of trustees. He is the executive director of Asheville and Brevard housing authority and is the former director of technical services for the Charlotte Housing Authority.

Mark Washburn: 704-358-5007; mwashburn@charlotteobserver.com

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