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updated: 5/7/2013 5:33 PM

Arlington Hts. native competes for 'Jeopardy!' college championship

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  • Dan Donohue with "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek.

    Dan Donohue with "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek.

  • Dan Donohue on the set

    Dan Donohue on the set


Dan Donohue has been watching "Jeopardy!" since fifth grade.

He participated in quiz and academic bowl teams, played the game online and was even flown out for an audition two years ago, but he didn't make it onto the game show where it is his dream to someday work.

The Arlington Heights native and St. Viator High School graduate inched closer to that dream Tuesday. Donohue was a contestant on Jeopardy's annual College Championship, in an episode that aired Tuesday but was really shot about a month ago.

"I've always been a facts guy," said Donohue, 21 and a junior at Northwestern University.

He didn't win Tuesday, but he could still be named a wild card, and move on to the next round of the two-week college championship. The eventual winner will take home $100,000.

"It was very nerve-wracking," he said. "It's easy to play Jeopardy at home, but it's a lot harder when you're under the lights and cameras are pointing at you."

The rules say Donohue cannot reveal how well he did in the tournament until all the episodes have aired. Just for making the tournament, however, he wins at least $5,000.

To make the show Donohue had to take an online, 50-question test and go for an in-person interview and practice games with producers.

Donohue is majoring in radio, TV and film, so his experience on a Hollywood TV set was especially meaningful.

"I told the staff and crew to keep an eye out for me if I move out to California someday," he said.

Viewers can watch the rest of the Jeopardy College Championship at 2:30 p.m. (Central Time) weekdays on ABC 7. Players from other colleges will compete in quarterfinal rounds the rest of this week.

The semifinal matches will air Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week, with the finals Thursday and Friday.

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