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'Jeopardy!' final question stumps contestant

March 19, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

High school chemistry teacher Cameron Jane Soulis knew her poetry and her vegetables - and science, well, that was a given.

But when it came to presidential birthplaces, the "Jeopardy!" game show contestant was at a loss.

"I just had no idea," said Soulis, 34, a former Washington County resident who lives in Towson, Md.

She came in second in a December taping of the show, earning her and a guest a weeklong vacation at a Ojia, Calif., health spa and free air travel.

The program featuring the former local woman aired Wednesday. Soulis watched the show with about 50 friends and teachers at John Carroll High School in Bel Air, Md.

Soulis graduated from Williamsport High School in 1982 and Hood College in Frederick, Md., in 1986.

Her parents, Bill and Deanna Soulis, of Williamsport, made the trip to Los Angeles with her.

Soulis did well the entire game, leading or tying the reigning champion and entering "Final Jeopardy" with $5,600.

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But an illustration of a town that was the birthplace of former President Herbert Hoover stumped all three contestants.

Soulis guessed Richard M. Nixon. Her incorrect answer placed her just $300 shy of the winner, history teacher Jeff Grimes, who took home $700 and will return for future shows. The third-place contestant took home a cellular phone.

Other categories she encountered included "TV sitcoms," "Poets," "Mr. or Mrs. T," and what she said she considered the hardest, "Anagrams of Alfred Hitchcock films."

Soulis, who has never before been on national television, said she was not nervous during the taping, which took about half an hour. The program tapes five shows in one day.

She said taping stops during commercial breaks and during "Final Jeopardy" so contestants can have time to write their answers.

Being on the show satisfied her curiosity about a variety of "Jeopardy!" minutiae, she said.

Those Plexiglass shields separating contestants really do work, she said.

And the reportedly difficult-to-operate clickers gave Soulis no trouble, she said.

"I practiced with a pen while I watched the show," she said.

The trick, she said, was waiting until host Alex Trebek finished asking a question before pressing the device.

The brief conversation Trebek has with each contestant on the show is nearly rehearsed, she said.

Each contestant makes a list of items to talk about and one is selected by the host. They rehearse each story but are not told which will be chosen by Trebek.

The shows are taped in front of an audience of about 150 people, she said.

When the credits rolled at the end of the show, their banter with the host was about the animated comedy, "The Simpsons," she said.

She said it was exciting being on the set and meeting other contestants. Soulis said fellow teachers helped her study for the show by preparing sample tests and compiling information for her to review.

A rubber Gumby toy given to her by a friend was her good luck charm for the trip.

Soulis said she had a great time being part of the show, even if she didn't win.

"It was exciting just being there," she said.

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