Juliet Mayer, 24, originally of The Plains, earned the title of Jeopardy! champion on Friday, May 7 and again on Monday, May 10. She finished with $53,200 in winnings ($23,800 on Friday and $29,400 on Monday).
“I played a strong game on Monday,” she said.
The Wakefield School and Amherst College graduate is currently working toward her graduate degree at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Mayer filled out the online test to be a Jeopardy! contestant in early 2020 and had a Zoom interview in September. “I got the call in February.” Mayer said she’d been offered an in-person interview when she was in college, but she was afraid to drive to New York by herself. “That was my 20-year-old self,” she said, laughing.
Mayer’s father, Paul Mayer, said that he and his daughter watched Jeopardy! when she was growing up. “We watched together and had a friendly rivalry.” He said that although it had been a goal of his to get on the show, he admits to being only “about 10% jealous and 90% proud” of his daughter. “It’s one thing to know the answers. It’s another to do it under pressure.”
Mayer said she didn’t “study” for her Jeopardy! debut. Her boyfriend created flash cards with questions from the last 10 years. She said, “He spent a lot of time on them, but I looked at them and said, ‘This is too much,’” and she put them away. “I thought if I tried to study too much, it would just freak me out.”
She said she thought she’d be really nervous, but found “You get in the zone. You get so focused, you don’t think about anything else.“ Mayer said it helped that there were very few people in the studio, “mostly just the crew,” because of COVID. She also said that she and other players stood around most of the day watching other teams play (Games are taped one after the other). “By the time it was our turn, we were just wanted to play the game.”
On Friday, Mayer answered questions from the “Play that Folksy Music” and “Cinematic Weddings” categories; the final Jeopardy! question was on “Shakespeare and History” and specifically, “MacBeth.”
On Monday, she picked “Historic Happenings,” “Music,” Stories” and “Planes.” Mayer was ahead, with $30,400, when the final Jeopardy! question on U.S. history was revealed. The answer was George Washington and John Adams; Mayer’s answer was Washington and Jefferson. Fortunately, she was smart enough to only bet $1,000 on her answer, so she wound up with the win.
She said that during her time on the game show, she tried to pick subjects she’d do well in, like pop culture, Latin and literature. Before turning to public health, Mayer majored in history and biology in college, and was on the Amherst Quiz Bowl and equestrian teams.
At Wakefield, Mayer was on the Certamen team, which she described during the Monday night broadcast as an academic bowl team, but focused on Latin and the classics.
Paul Mayer described his daughter as well-rounded, with broad interests. Those interests “were nurtured at Wakefield,” he said.
Ann-Charlotte Robinson, Wakefield’s director of development and community relations, said, “Juliet was in the same class with my son and they were together from first grade through graduation in 2014. Juliet was always one of the brightest students in that class. She wowed us with a perfect SAT score and it was no surprise that she earned the honor of valedictorian.
Robinson added, “She was a quiet, kind, and considerate girl and has been a dedicated alum even in college at Amherst. We have always known that we would hear great things from Juliet and am so interested to see that she is going into public health policy where she will surely make a significant difference in her future. It's also great to see her enjoying herself and fulfilling this dream she shared with her dad!”
Mayer said she’ll probably put most of her after-tax winnings into savings and maybe take a vacation after graduation next May. She admitted, though, she’d probably reserve some of the money for something frivolous – like shoes or clothes.
Mayer said she has one important piece of advice for anyone planning to tackle the same challenge. “Don’t wear heels! My feet were killing me by the end of the day, and no one can tell how tall you are anyway.”
Reach Robin Earl at firstname.lastname@example.org