Quiz Bowl team member to compete on 'Jeopardy! College Championship'
Liberty University junior Natalie Hathcote was selected from a pool of 18,000 college undergraduates to compete on one of the most popular TV quiz shows of all time, “Jeopardy!,” in its annual college tournament.
After Hathcote submitted her online audition in October, which included a 50-question quiz, she received an invitation to perform an in-person audition in Los Angeles in November. Of the 250 students who were selected to audition, only 15 made it through. Hathcote was among them.
“By the time they called, I had just sort of assumed I hadn’t made it,” Hathcote said. “I was just chilling in my room staring at the wall pretending to do homework when they called, and I screamed. For several days, it was really surreal.”
Hathcote will travel to California to tape the show early next month, and it will air in April.
Hathcote said most contestants in the college tournament hail from schools like Harvard and Stanford. In the show's 30-year existence, only three evangelical schools have been represented.
But as the realization set in of her involvement, Hathcote’s mind jumped back in time to the countless hours watching “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” with her family and trying earnestly to answer the difficult categorical questions before the contestants on screen.
Hathcote’s love for factual knowledge prompted her to double major in both English and history.
“Even though there are other skills involved, history and English really require you to have a lot of stuff committed to memory,” Hathcote said. “You can be a brilliant writer or analytical thinker, but ultimately you have to remember who was president when or who wrote that.”
On top of her academics — tackling a full-time load of history and English classes — Hathcote is very instrumental on the Quiz Bowl team, a competitive, extracurricular activity for students in Liberty’s Honors Program.
The team has competed at UVA, UNC, Duke, William & Mary, and other prominent institutions. In 2014, the team finished 20th in the country, led by Catherine Hardee, who went on to become a three-time “Jeopardy!” champion after graduation. The team followed with a 14th place finish the next year, beating Ohio State, Michigan, and South Carolina.
“Having coached both (Hardee and Hathcote) for three or four years has been very rewarding,” said Honors Program Director and Quiz Bowl Coach Dr. Jim Nutter. “Catherine took our team to the Quiz Bowl Nationals in 2014, where we finished 20th in the country, and my hope is that Natalie will do the same thing next year when she is a senior.”
Natalie joined the varsity Quiz Bowl team her sophomore year and looks to cap off three successful years at that level.
“(Dr. Nutter) is a great Quiz Bowl coach,” Hathcote said. “If he didn’t dedicate the time and energy running practice, organizing teams, driving us to tournaments, I probably wouldn’t have made it to this.”
While many students excel through research and analytical thinking, Natalie’s strength is in the facts, the key component to a successful “Jeopardy!” contestant.
“Natalie excels in pop culture topics and is equally strong in literature and history questions as well,” Nutter said. “Natalie should do well in (College) “Jeopardy!” because of her passion for learning and her breadth of knowledge.”
“Even if I don’t win,” Hathcote added, “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that a lot of trivia nerds only dream about.”