Standing in a red dress on the “Jeopardy!” 2023 High School Reunion finals stage on March 9, Maya Wright (23C) dedicated her participation in the tournament to her grandmother, whose favorite color was red, and expressed her gratitude to those supporting her.

Wright placed third in the “Jeopardy!” 2023 High School Reunion finals. She previously won the quarterfinals on Feb. 20 and the semifinals on March 7, securing her position in the March 8 and 9 finals.

When discussing her goal for the competition, Wright said that she is aiming for the best but is “at peace with whatever happened.”

Previously, Wright competed on “Jeopardy!” in the 2018 Teen Tournament Game, making it to the finals before finishing third. She said being invited again to compete on “Jeopardy!” was surreal.

“I was just really grateful for the opportunity to compete again and to see some of my friends from the last tournament again,” Wright said.

However, Wright explained that her mindset heading into this tournament was different than when she was in high school. In 2018, she said she felt like she needed to prove herself. This time around, she was more relaxed.

“It felt like I was having a good time with my friends like we were just playing a trivia game together,” Wright said.

Maya Wright (23C) placed third in the “Jeopardy!” 2023 High School Reunion finals. She previously won the quarterfinals on Feb. 20 and the semifinals on March 7. Courtesy of Jeopardy!

The quarterfinals

Wright said she was excited just for the opportunity to compete and winning the quarterfinal was a bonus.

“Regardless of if I won or lost, I was just happy to be there,” Wright said. “Of course, this added a little bit of surprise.”

Although Wright said she enjoyed most of the Feb. 20 competition, she said she was nervous when the production team began having technical difficulties. The studio problems threw Wright off her game, but once the production team fixed the issues, she said she could “get back into the right mind space” and “really get into the game.”

Because “Jeopardy!” covers a wide variety of topics and players do not know the category ahead of time, Wright said she has to study subjects she struggles with. In particular, she said she found the technology category more challenging than the geography, history and pop culture categories.

Double majoring in human health and Spanish, Wright said she rarely has taken classes like history or physics at Emory University, so she focused on those subjects while preparing for the show.

The semifinals

After winning the quarterfinal competition, Wright said she had little chance to prepare for the semifinal round — filmed two days later — because players who were not filming stayed backstage and were prevented from using their phones or computers in the studio. So, Wright watched a couple of old “Jeopardy!” episodes during that period to catch up on potential questions.

In the semifinals, Wright competed against Columbia University (N.Y.) student Tim Cho and Georgetown University (D.C.) student Caleb Richmond. The game was close going into the Final Jeopardy! round — Richmond was leading with $9,582, Cho was in second with $8,800 and Wright trailed behind with $7,800.

The Final Jeopardy! question, which fell under the “Names in the Bookstore” category, asked which author “made lists, perhaps to cope with depression; a set of lists he published in 1852 made his name synonymous with a type of book,” according to the Jeopardy! Archive website. Wright was the only person who knew the answer: Peter Mark Roget, securing her place as a finalist.

“There was one point where it got a little tense as far as everyone being close,” Wright said. “The tension helps keep it interesting, so I hope that it’s as fun to watch as it was to record.”

Wright said she had a great time competing against Cho and Richmond in the semifinals, both of whom she knew from the 2018 tournament. She added that she also made friends with other 2018 contestants, noting that she still keeps in touch with some of them.

“As far as competing against them, it is tough because I kind of know some of their strengths, some of their weaknesses and I know they study and take this seriously,” Wright said. “I know what they’re good at and I know what I’m good at and just trying not to compare those two things were really difficult for me, but it really made the [semifinals] match fun.”

The finals

In the finals, Wright faced off against Vanderbilt University (Tenn.) student Jackson Jones and Brown University (R.I.) student Justin Bolsen. They both competed in Jeopardy! 2019 Teen Tournament Game. 

Wright was the only contestant from the 2018 Teen Tournament Game to reach the finals, which she said was a huge accomplishment.

“I was honored to make it to the finals, and I love both the guys I competed against,” Wright wrote in an email to the Wheel.

The finals contained two games, one aired on March 8 and the other aired on March 9. The contestant with the highest combined point total from both games would win the tournament.

During the March 8 Double Jeopardy! round, Wright nailed the $2,000 question in the “Health & Medicine” category. However, Jones was the only competitor to answer the Final Jeopardy! question correctly. By the end of the March 8 final, Jones was leading with $24,000, Bolsen was in second place with $13,570 and Wright was in third place with $3,370. Their totals would be added with their total from the March 9 game.

As the contest advanced to the Final Jeopardy! round, Wright took the lead with $14,200. Bolsen was in second place with $11,000 while Jones had $5,600.

All of the competitors got the Final Jeopardy! question correct with Bolsen taking the win, securing the $100,000 grand prize. Jones got second place while Wright followed in third, taking home $25,000. 

Wright wrote that the money she has earned this year on “Jeopardy!” will help cover graduation fees and her undergraduate tuition, as well as help her move into her own apartment after graduating from Emory.

Wright said being on “Jeopardy!” has changed her life, noting that after her first appearance in 2018, The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change reached out to her to participate in the Beloved Community Leadership Academy, which is dedicated to developing compassionate young leaders who “think critically in solving pressing world issues,” based on Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.

Wright has been a leader for several years and works as a special projects intern at The King Center. She assists the administrative team that collaborates with Goldman Sachs’ One Million Black Women initiative to maintain the program’s Canvas page and facilitate mentorship sessions, Wright wrote.

Associate Teaching Professor in the Center for the Study of Human Health Chris Eagle was Wright’s professor for “Health and Humanities” (HLTH 230), “American Healthcare Ethics” (HLTH 333) and “Writing Bodies” (HLTH 385W). In an email to the Wheel, Eagle wrote that “Health and Humanities” applies the most to “Jeopardy!” because the content involves “intellectual and cultural history on subjects related to medicine and science.”

Eagle described Wright as having intellectual curiosity, adding she is always involved in the class materials and determined to learn more. He noted that he was not surprised by Wright’s success on “Jeopardy!”

“She is that perfect combination of determination and humility,” Eagle wrote. “She’s so brilliant already, but she’s also humble about knowing there’s always more to learn. Having her in class has really been a highlight of those challenging couple years of teaching during the pandemic.”

Wright said she tries to make a positive presence in the community, and being in “Jeopardy!” enables her to do so.

“I just want to make my family and my community proud, represent Emory really well,” Wright said. “I just really appreciate the support that my family and the Emory community have given me through this entire experience.”

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Heather(Zeyi) Lu (24C) is from Xinjiang, China, majoring in Philosophy, Politics, and Law & International Studies. She enjoys exercising and baking outside of the Wheel.