Appearing on national television may be one of the highest celebrity standings a person can achieve, but Creekview High School freshman Justin Bolsen took his celebrity status to an even greater level.
At only fourteen years old, Justin appeared as a contestant on the popular Jeopardy Teen Tournament in late 2018. The show aired from June 17 through June 28 on 11 Alive, which means by now all of Georgia will know how he did; unfortunately Enjoy Cherokee Magazine wasn’t privy to that information before press time.
Justin is an energetic and engaging young man with spiked hair, a charming smile, and of course, one sharp brain. No stranger to academic competitions, Justin hurdled several challenges to make his way to the TV game show Jeopardy Teen Tournament. He was the youngest contestant on the show.
Jeopardy, often considered the “game show for intellectuals,” has won thirty Emmy Awards and a distinguished Peabody Award.
Justin’s adventure began when he took an online quiz that allows only a nail-biting fifteen seconds for each response. For most people the game is over at that stage, because it takes most people fifteen seconds just to read the question. Of the seven thousand teenagers who completed the test, only 150 were invited to audition. Justin got the call and went to New Orleans for a live audition. The live audition went well, and he was sent to Los Angeles for the show.
The format for Jeopardy Teen Tournament is like the Jeopardy Tournament of Champions and the Jeopardy College Championship. Five quarterfinal games produce five semifinalists and four wildcard semifinalists, and then three semifinals produce three finalists who get to compete in a two-game final. The winner of the tournament wins a whopping $100,000.
Justin says that all the contestants first met each other at a hotel in Los Angeles located conveniently beside Universal Studios. Smart kids like theme parks too. About the other contestants, Justin says, “They felt like friends within an hour after meeting them.”
Once the contestants and their parents arrived at the television studio, the production staff set to work calming the kids’ nerves and making them feel comfortable. Justin remarks that Maggie Speak, the producer, was particularly helpful to the contestants.
Justin’s mother, Sandra Bolsen, said the energy on set was so positive and supportive that after spending time with the competitors, “You want them all to win.”
On March 6, 2019, host Alex Trebek announced he has stage four pancreatic cancer, but when Justin was in Los Angles taping the show, Alex had not yet found out the news. He says the host was energetic and extremely likable. According to Justin, “Alex is busy during the taping and is really good at engaging the audience by asking them questions. Alex was fun and had a terrific, dry sense of humor.”
Justin and his family were required to pinky swear not to discuss the results of the show, but even before this issue gets published, you may know the outcome. Regardless of the results, Justin beams with happiness recalling his Jeopardy experience.
“Alex is busy during the taping and good at engaging the audience. Alex is fun and has a terrific, dry sense of humor.” — Justin Bolsen
The Bolsen family has always been big fans of Jeopardy. How exciting it must be for them to have a viewing party with their friends and family members. Win or lose, Justin has made his family and community proud.
No matter what happens, Justin says he thinks “Jeopardy contestant” will look cool on his résumé one day.
UPDATE MARCH 2023:
Justin Bolsen, now a freshman at Brown University, returned to Jeopardy as a contestant on the High School Reunion Tournament and came out victorious once again, earning another $100,000 prize.
Read more at Jeopardy.com or visit TribuneLedgerNews.com for more coverage.
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And the winner is… Bryce Leatherwood