Matthew Cline ’19 was home sick at his home in Maumelle, Ark., when he found himself browsing through a list of channels and playing along a “Jeopardy” show that he originally had no intention of watching.
The following March, Cline competed in “Jeopardy: Kids’ Week,” ultimately winning $41,000 as prize money for first place.
“Where I’m from, Jeopardy airs at 11:00 a.m., so I never got to see it unless I was home… I did well answering the questions from my armchair and at the very end they had this[ad] that said ‘If you’d like to be on Jeopardy go to such and such websites’ [which] piqued my interest,” said Cline in an interview with The Phillipian.
After his segment was finally released July, Cline was also awarded by his hometown as the mayor declared August 20 of every year “Matthew Cline Day.” August 20 was the day that the mayor officially recognized Cline’s achievement before the city council, award- ing him with a personal key to the city of Maumelle.
“I was only the second Arkansan ever to be on Jeopardy… I ended up doing some interviews for news stations from around my state of Arkansas… In addition, I received the key to the city of Maumelle…[and] the mayor gave a speech to city council about the positive press I brought to the town and my state, [which] I was grateful [for],” Cline stated.
Prior to participating on the show, Cline had to pass an online test and a live audition. With successful results, he reached the Final 15, securing a ticket to the Jeopardy show.
“I didn’t necessarily have the end results of me winning the show in mind. I wasn’t even thinking about getting a spot on the show. I was just curious. I didn’t know how Jeopardy went about selecting contestants and I thought my signing up would maybe help me learn more,” Cline said.
Cline missed two weeks of school to prepare for the show, studying collections of trivia books, encyclopedias, and movies. He especially focused on categories such as Harry Potter and modern music that he considered potential areas.
Cline told his friends about the show only a day before departing to the filming site, Culver City, California. Even after winning the show, which was shot in March 2012, Cline claimed that he could not disclose the good news until the show’s airing in July.
“The show is filmed in March, but it doesn’t air until July, so there was about six months where I knew that I’d won but because of the con- tract I’d signed with Sony Productions, I couldn’t tell anybody. If it got to the producers that word had gotten out of the results from the show and they could trace it back to me, the 41,000 dollars that I won went away,” Cline said.
“Even without that though, I wanted to be fickle. I wanted to leave the results [a] surprise, so I didn’t tell anybody,” he continued.
During the show, Cline taped a week’s worth of film in one day, filming fourteen
hours under immense pressure. Cline said that he tried to put aside his nervousness to minimize distractive emotions.
Cline described how participating in the game show helped him build confidence from a young age, enabling him to interact with students from all backgrounds. He emphasized how the challenging experience encouraged him to explore different opportunities, including his pursuit towards attending Andover.
“[I met a] very diverse group [of people] and probably the most diverse group I had [met]… until that point. Being in that new location and a quiz show, which is all about academic rigor, encouraged me to seek out more and more opportunities, and as I did so, it only made me want more which led me to seeking out Andover as a rigorous high school for me,” he said.
Cline highlighted that a strong desire for trivia naturally leads to successful out- comes.
“It seems to me that the people that end up on the show are the people that love trivia. Nobody says ‘I want to be on Jeopardy so I’m gonna study trivia.’ People say ‘Oh I love trivia so I want to be on Jeopardy,’ [so] I would say don’t take [the show] too seriously,” he said.