I’ll take Sullivan Hall for $400, Alex

Contestants eagerly press the buttons on their clickers, fighting to be the first to buzz in to answer a question. It’s the 2016 College Championship of America’s favorite quiz show, “Jeopardy” and competition has reached an all-time high.

Among the contestants was Ziad Ali, a freshman studying electrical and computer engineering. Ali has competed in trivia competitions since middle school and always dreamt of being on “Jeopardy.” Once on campus, he competed in the College Tournament to represent NC State.

To qualify to complete, Ali first completed an online test in October and then auditioned in New York, where he took another test and played a mock round of the game, which was videotaped to help producers decide if he would be a good fit for the show.

“About a month later, I was called and informed I would be participating,” Ali said. “So I flew out to L.A. in early January and we filmed five episodes a day on Tuesday and Wednesday in the first week of the month to finish the whole tournament.”

Antonio Gargano, a freshman studying electrical and computer engineering, helped Ali practice for the competition. Gargano read old “Jeopardy” questions to Ali and checked out buzzers from student organizations so Ali could improve his buzzer speed.

Gargano said Ali made his own computer program that counted down and waited for a buzz-in on the keyboard so he could practice on the go.

“The buzzer timing was the most challenging aspect because you have to wait until after the question is read to buzz in and the other competitors could usually anticipate when Alex would finish better than I could,” Ali said. “I started to get the hang of it in the second half of my semifinal, but it wasn’t enough to help me win the game.”

The avid Quiz Bowl participant made it past the quarterfinals and finished as a semi-finalist.

“I don’t really regret anything,” he said. “Although, I do wish I would have calmed down a little in my semifinal because I got a little nervous and that may have led to some wrong answers.”

One of the main lessons Ali took away from the experience was the importance of living in the moment.

“I have never participated in something as important as ‘Jeopardy’ in my life, so I was very focused and tense when I walked into the studio on the first day,” he said. “However, I think I would have enjoyed the experience a little more had I relaxed and focused on making the most out of the trip and not just winning.”

Ali received additional practice for “Jeopardy” through the Quiz Bowl Club, where he serves as president. For the past six years, Ali has participated in Quiz Bowl. “Being president and competing on ‘Jeopardy’ were both products of my dedication and love for the game.”

Ali also volunteered at the Krispy Kreme Challenge and is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). When he’s not practicing trivia, Ali is usually studying in Sullivan Hall or attending one of the frequently planned activities in the lounges.

“Most people do their schoolwork and are content, but Ziad is always striving to learn more,” Gargano said. “He’ll do his work and then keep working. You can see why this would come in handy for something like ‘Jeopardy,’ but it motivates me and the people around him to work that much harder.”

Ali said if given the chance, he would definitely participate in “Jeopardy” again.

“If not for the money, just for the experience,” Ali said. “Everyone I played with was awesome and we still keep in contact. Overall, just the experience of being there and playing the game is one I would love to have again.”