From History Bee to Jeopardy! Teen

Ardrey Kell student to appear on popular trivia game show

By Courtney Mihocik

Ardrey Kell rising sophomore Teagan O’Sullivan with Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek

The Jeopardy! Teen Tournament airs Mondays through Fridays, June 17-28, at 7 p.m. on WCNC. Look for Teagan O’Sullivan to appear in the June 17 episode.

When Teagan O’Sullivan was eight years old, she took an immediate interest in the TV show “Jeopardy!”

That interest spilled over into competing in academic trivia and knowledge tournaments, even making her way to national-level competitions.

In March 2018, the Ardrey Kell freshman, now rising sophomore, took the Jeopardy! Teen quiz, almost on a whim, to see if she would qualify to appear on the trivia game show. Not expecting much, she completed the quiz and had her mother, Maura O’Sullivan, sign off on it.

Eight months later, she was in Los Angeles with her immediate family, competing on the game show with other high school students for the 2019 Jeopardy! Teen Tournament, airing on Monday, June 17.

The two-week tournament will have players compensated $100,000 for first place, $50,000 for second place, $25,000 for third, $10,000 for semi-finalists and $5,000 for competitors.

“When I saw that they were having a Teen Tournament audition, I was finally the right age to do some activity relating to “Jeopardy!,” Teagan, 14, explained. “Because by the time I aged into the kids’ tournaments, they were gone. So that opportunity was exciting.”

To her parents, it was clear that trivia was Teagan’s strong suit. When the family travels to Cape Cod in the summers, Teagan joins her older cousins for restaurant pop trivia nights at dinner, in which they always do well and most of the time, win.

Her father, Michael O’Sullivan, remembers her first trivia and general knowledge competition, during which he saw her potential.

“I always remember that first History Bee tournament,” Michael recalled. “We didn’t really know what to expect and she did well right away, and then she qualified for the national piece.”

After competing in history bee her middle school years, she moved to the team-based quiz bowl championship, hosted by National Academic Quiz Tournaments. Teagan and her team placed 33rd and in the 70-something rankings for her seventh and eighth grade years, respectively.

So, it was fitting for her to pass the initial online quiz and get a call to audition in Washington, D.C. a few months later. However, Teagan and her parents weren’t sure if they’d take up the offer.

“When we got the call to go to D.C., we thought, ‘Well she’s only a freshman, should she just wait and maybe do it later?’” Michael said. “And Maura actually called the producers back at the show, and they said, ‘We don’t do these every year, and even if we do them again while she’s in high school, there’s no guarantee we’ll call her back, so if you pass up on this you might never hear from us again.’”

That was enough to send Michael and Teagan on a road trip to the nation’s capital for her to audition for the show. About a month later, she was cast for the tournament and booked to go to Los Angeles in December to compete for the pinnacle of knowledge-based championships.

“I think Teen Jeopardy! is the ultimate trivia experience,” Teagan stated.

Before going to Los Angeles for the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament, Teagan spent her spare time preparing for the event — mostly by binge-watching past episodes.

“You have to watch the episodes, that was the main thing that I got. Then just reading fact books and stuff; it was across-the-board information,” Teagan explained. “There was nothing that I intensely studied, because what if I studied that and then it didn’t even show up? But I just tried to get a simple foundation in everything so I can be prepared going into the game.”

While Teagan and her family can’t reveal the outcome of the tournament, or even say how well she did before the airing of her episode, they could talk about her experiences at the studio during the taping.

“All the people were great, all the kids were great,” Teagan said. “The staff, everybody was super nice, and they made it really fun even though it was stressful. It was all good.”

Teagan’s family, including parents Michael and Maura and her siblings, Catherine and Rauri O’Sullivan, were audience members during the taping of the show. According to Michael, Alex Trebek is just as good at hosting in person as he appears on-screen, even showing a softer side of his game show host personality with the younger contestants than he does with adults.

“He gave the kids advice and spent a little bit of time with [them.] At the end, when he gave his final talk, he didn’t face the kids,” Michael explained. “He faced the back of the studio because [other people] said he would get emotional because he really likes the kids.”

Earlier this year, the host shared his stage four pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Teagan and her fellow contestants knew that they wanted to donate part of their winnings to a charitable cause. After Trebek’s news, they settled on donating to a pancreatic cancer health organization.

Following two days of vacation family time and a whirlwind two days of taping at the Sony Pictures Studios, Teagan walked away from the experience with an improved stress-management mindset.

“I just learned to enjoy it, and I think I’ve been less stressed since it happened. Maybe because it’s over now and I don’t have to worry about it,” she said. “Because I tried to not stress about that, I don’t get as stressed now.”