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Thieu returns to Jeopardy!, falls short of Tournament of Champions title
Porschia Paxton / Intern
Monica Thieu, who had won Jeopardy with a prize of $100,000 last year as a UNT Texas Academy of Mathematics and Sciences student, returned this year to the show for a Tournament of Champions, which ran for two weeks.
The tournament, with a grand prize of $250,000, ended yesterday.
Thieu was bounced in the quarterfinals on Feb. 15. She went up against a 4-time champion horticulturalist named David Gard – who had won a total of $84,700 – and Jason Keller, a tutor from Highland Park, New Jersey. He was a 9-time champion with a winnings total of $213,900.
Keller advanced and was eliminated in the semi-final round. A world history teacher named Colby Burnett won the entire tournament and the grand prize.
Thieu said this tournament was different than the first time she was on the show. She said that she studied more in order to be better prepared.
“I played against adults who had the best records on the regular season, whereas in the college tournament it was just that — I played against college students,” she said.
Thieu is a freshman who attends Stanford University.
“Monica was a great student while she attended UNT in the TAMS program,” said Director of Student Life in the TAMS program Russ Stukel.
Before returning to the show, Thieu said she was worried that the other contestants would be better than she was and that she wouldn’t have a chance to win. She said she eventually realized that she was just as knowledgeable as they were.
“[Monica] was very quick and had a sharp mind. She had a good sense of humor,” said Neal Brand, a mathematics professor who taught Thieu. “I’m not surprised that she did well on Jeopardy!.”
Thieu said she missed the cut due to not having enough money on the final Jeopardy question.
The final category was famous women. The question was, “Her 1886 obituary in a Massachusetts paper said, ‘Very few in the village, except among the older inhabitants, knew her personally.’”
Thieu correctly guessed Emily Dickinson, but her total wasn’t enough to send her into the next round.
“While she did not advance to later rounds we are very proud of her,” Stukel said. “Monica is an outstanding young lady in whom TAMS will always be proud.”
Thieu said she enjoyed being with the other competitors.
“We all got along really well and became good friends after only two days of taping,” she said. “It’s too bad that we only got to play once because every single person there was good enough to win the whole thing, but only one person actually does.”