The third time’s the charm for Skyler Hornback.
The seventh-grade student at LaRue County Middle School is headed to California to compete in the annual Kids Week on “Jeopardy.” He and his family fly out Feb. 2 and will spend several days in the Golden State.
On Oct. 30, he participated in the online test for the show. This was the third year he tried out. More than 9,000 kids – ages 10, 11 and 12 – took the 30-question test as the first step toward reaching the “Jeopardy” stage. Participants had 20 seconds to answer each question, Skyler said.
“The first two times I didn’t do so well,” he said. This year he did much better, getting a call from the show’s staff inviting him to audition Dec. 8 in Cincinnati.
From the original 9,000 who took the online test, 240 were chosen to audition. Auditions were also held in New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans. From those events, 15 were selected to compete on the show.
“We’re still kind of shocked,” said his mom, Barbara Hornback. “I guess we never really thought it would happen.”
The Cincinnati audition was held at the Hyatt Regency, in one of their distinct conference areas.
“It was really fancy,” Skyler said.
Did the swanky setting make him apprehensive as he prepared to compete?
“I’m nervous all the time,” he said of such competitions.
The first question was a good omen: This president was assassinated in 1865.
Before Skyler could ring in to answer, another contestant hit the button. That boy’s answer was incorrect and Skyler seized the opportunity to provide the correct answer: Who is Abraham Lincoln?
From there, Skyler buzzed his way through the questions, posting a strong showing that earned him a spot on the Kids Week panel.
The rules for Kids Week are a little different than for the regular “Jeopardy” game. Responses still must be in the form of a question. The winner of each round does not move on to the next game – rather, there are three fresh faces for every episode. The third-place contestant earns a consolation prize of $1,000; the runner-up wins $2,000; and the winner of the game gets to keep what he or she earned during the course of the game.
While the winner of each Kids Week episode takes home what they’ve earned during the game, they are guaranteed a minimum prize of $10,000. There are also other prizes for each contestant including books, games, computers and other items.
Skyler doesn’t regularly watch “Jeopardy” and now he says he can’t watch the show.
“I just get too nervous listening to the questions and waiting for them to answer,” he said. “It’s different now.”
The trip to Culver City, Calif., will be a trip of “firsts” for Skyler: His first time flying, his first time on a television program, his first time to be visit Disneyland and going to the Pacific Ocean.
He’s also looking forward to meeting the show’s host, Alex Trebek. “They say he’s really down to earth,” Skyler said, adding that he hopes to see other celebrities while taping the show at Sony Pictures Studios.
In addition to his mom, his dad Jeff and his older sisters, Chelsea Davenport and Megan Nunn, are planning to be part of the family contingent traveling to California. Skyler said his sisters are hoping to get into a taping of “The Price Is Right”.
Skyler has had a busy school year. He’s on the Academic Team, is a member of the Governor’s Cup Quick Recall squad and participates in Knowledge Masters, the Science Olympiad, BETA and the Student Technology Leadership Program (STLP). But it’s the MathCounts competition that may have had the most significant impact so far. Skyler won a full four-year scholarship to Western Kentucky University in the MathCounts event last fall.
“It’s been a pretty good year,” he said with a smile.
As he prepared for “Jeopardy,” his mom is trying to make arrangements for a late-day flight. Skyler explained that the Governor’s Cup Quick Recall team has a match that morning.
“It’s regionals, you know … and if I miss it, I miss an opportunity to go onto states,” he said. “I don’t want to miss out on that.”