MACEDONIA — Justin Bolsen, 14, has grown up watching people compete by answering quiz questions and for the lucky ones, win large cash prizes on “Jeopardy!” hosted by Alex Trebek. This summer, he will appear on the show he’s been a long-time fan of, as a contestant in the “Jeopardy! Teen Tournament.”
The tournament, airing in June for two weeks, is open to teens ages 13-17. The winner of the tournament receives a $100,000 cash prize; other prizes are $50,000 for second place, $25,000 for third place, $10,000 for semifinalists and $5,000 for other contestants.
Bolsen, a freshman at Creekview High School, was the youngest selected of 15 to appear on the show. About 7,000 teenagers took the initial qualifying test, and 150 were invited to audition, said Bolsen’s father, Toby Bolsen.
Audiences will have the opportunity to see the 14-year-old on TV June 19. Though he said he couldn’t talk about the results of the show, Justin Bolsen encouraged everyone to watch the whole tournament.
“The entire tournament is worth watching. It’s super cool to see everyone compete against each other and getting all those questions,” he said. “Everything about it is amazing.”
If Bolsen wins the the first round in the June 19 episode, viewers can watch him advance to semifinals and possibly the finals the following week.
Bolsen has had his fair share of competitive quizzes. In his time at Creekland Middle School, he became a two-time state middle school history bee champion and a one time state middle school academic bee champion. His middle school academic bowl team won the state tournament two years in a row, and last May ranked 14th out of 192 in a national contest. In sixth grade, Bolsen qualified for the National Science Bee in Washington, D.C. and placed sixth in his grade level in the country.
After he auditioned last summer, Bolsen said, he initially thought he wasn’t chosen because he had not been contacted by representatives of the show. In August, he was surprised to receive a call while riding a school bus home.
The freshman and his family went to California to spend two days filming at Sony Pictures Studios, and another few days to vacation together, including a visit to Universal Studios.
Though he felt nervous among some tough competition, it was also a dream come true for him to meet the host, he said.
“It was pretty cool. You see these kids that went through the process to get on, and they’re obviously super smart, so you’re kind of intimidated. I was kind of scared, but after a while those nerves calmed down,” Bolsen said.
In addition to his quiz bowl experiences and time spent watching the show, Bolsen reached out to the winner of last year’s tournament, Claire Sattler, for tips. He said he’s also become good friends with the other contestants.
“There’s a lot of online resources that help. Watching the episodes helped a lot for me, because it gives you a feel for the type of questions that are going to be on the test and the audition,” he said.
Family members, including Bolsen’s parents, Toby and Sandra Bolsen, his sister, Katelyn, and a grandmother, uncle and aunt, were audience members for the show.
“It’s really interactive with the audience. Alex will go out and ask some questions to the people in the audience, and have them ask him questions, and he’ll answer those. So it’s a great experience even if you’re in the audience.”
Last month, Trebek announced he was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer.
“Now normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m going to fight this, and I’m going to keep working. And with the love and support of my family and friends and with the help of your prayers also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease. Truth told, I have to! Because under the terms of my contract, I have to host Jeopardy! for three more years! So help me,” he wrote in a statement on the show’s website. “Keep the faith and we’ll win. We’ll get it done. Thank you.”
The Jeopardy Teen Tournament airs 7:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays June 17-28 on 11Alive.