Courtesy of Lucas Miner

Those who frequent the New Haven bar scene have probably seen Claire Sattler ’23 or Lucas Miner ’24 dominating weekly trivia nights. Now, the two have brought their skills to television, as they head to the semi-finals of the “Jeopardy! High School Reunion Tournament.

Sattler and Miner previously competed in the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament, coming in first and second place, respectively. Late last year, they — along with 25 of their competitors from the Teen Tournament — were invited to take the “Jeopardy!” stage again and compete in the High School Reunion Tournament. Sattler and Miner both won their quarterfinals earlier this week, on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. The pair spoke to the News about their journey to “Jeopardy!”, their study tactics and the friendships they formed on the show.

“My first time on the show, it was just absolutely a fantasy,” Sattler said. “I was like a kid at Disney World. This time, it was a little different. I was more just kind of having a good time. It felt a bit like a homecoming. It was a reunion.” 

Both students were originally introduced to “Jeopardy!” by older family members. At age nine, Sattler shocked her mother by answering every Kids Week question correctly. From there, she said, her mom was her biggest supporter, signing her up for auditions each year and helping her realize her capability.

Miner was introduced to “Jeopardy!” by his grandmother. Each time he visited her, he said, they watched the show together, and it was she who ultimately encouraged him to try out for the Teen Tournament.

The process of making it onto “Jeopardy!” is complicated, both Sattler and Miner explained. First, hopefuls must take an online trivia test. If they pass, they are then entered into an audition lottery, from which only a third of entrants are selected to audition. Potential contestants are then flown to a studio, where they play a mock game of “Jeopardy!” and conduct interviews.

For Sattler, the process of getting on the show was long and difficult. She passed the online test three times before she was finally offered her first audition for Kids Week at age 12. This audition was unsuccessful, though, and she didn’t end up booking the show until four years later, when she was selected for the Teen Tournament.

Miner was offered his first audition — for the Teen Tournament — during his junior year of high school. He was asked to compete on the show weeks later.

Neither Sattler nor Miner found studying to be effective preparation for their “Jeopardy!” qualification.

“The key thing that everybody always asks is ‘Oh, how do you study?’” Sattler said. “And the answer is, like, you do, but you don’t. There’s only so much studying will do for you.”

Sattler said that she only encountered one question during her time on the show that she learned the answer to while actively studying. The rest of the questions, she explained, asked about information she already knew.

Miner echoed this sentiment, and pointed to his lifelong interest in “Jeopardy!” and trivia as integral to his preparation for the High School Reunion Tournament. A key part of his studying, he said, was just watching the show every night.

“To an extent it really is just an inborn thing,” Miner said. “I’ve always been a trivia kid. I did Quizbowl in high school, so a lot of it was simply refreshing quizbowl knowledge that I already had.” 

Strategy is much more important than content, both Sattler and Miner said. Tactics like wagering, buzzer strategy, category selection and hunting for Daily Doubles, they explained, can make or break a game.

Due to their busy Yale schedules, the students often had little time to prepare, but they found  an unexpected gauntlet: New Haven bars. While Miner and his friends often end their Monday nights at Old Heidelberg’s weekly trivia night, Sattler and her trivia team are regular champions at Rudy’s Tuesday night trivia games.

“It’s so nice to be able to go to a place once a week and just do trivia with my friends,” Sattler said. “Even though it wasn’t like I was actively studying, it was a nice little refresher on how it feels to be competing.”

Reflecting on their time in Los Angeles filming the Reunion Tournament, both Sattler and Miner emphasized the close bonds they formed behind the scenes. They spoke to the fast and close nature of these intra-contestant friendships.

“I think we all sensed that it was more about the experience than the winnings or the national fame.” Miner said. “It was about those five days that we were there and the bonding that we could do and the collective memories that we could form, rather than any sort of visceral competition. In some ways, playing the game was just a bonus to hanging out with  friends.” 

Shriya Yarlagadda, a sophomore at Harvard who competed in the High School Reunion Tournament alongside Sattler and Miner, added that the friends she made on the show are like family to her.

Yarlagadda is particularly close with Sattler, who stayed with her at Harvard during this year’s Yale-Harvard game. She highlighted her admiration for Sattler, pointing specifically to her intelligence and her ability to light up any room she walks into.

“I read somewhere, and I wholly agree, that the operative word of the Jeopardy High School Reunion Tournament is not ‘tournament’ but ‘reunion,’” Sattler said. “I honestly imagine my life without these people. And that’s crazy, considering I met them on this crazy fluke chance of being asked to compete on a game show for two days when I was 16.” 

In addition to his valuable on-show relationships, Miner emphasized how supportive his Yale friends were throughout his “Jeopardy!” experience. He pointed specifically to housemate Daniel Shimberg ’25 and close friend Andrew DeWeese ’24, both of whom helped him study in the weeks leading up to his appearance on the show.

“I really admire how hard he studied for this,” DeWeese said. “We’d be working out in the gym together, and on his offsets, I’d just be quizzing him on his “Jeopardy!” book. We went skiing in January, and he had that book out on the chairlift the whole time.”

Shimberg recalled huddling around the television. in their house playing mock “Jeopardy!” games late into the night. There wasn’t a single question throughout all of their practice rounds that Miner could not answer, he said.

Support from fellow Yalies has perhaps been strongest, though, since his episode has aired, Miner said. He described being completely overwhelmed by the amount of peers who attended a watch party he hosted for his quarterfinal game.

“It’s hard to quantify just how much of Yale I carried that onto the ‘Jeopardy!’ stage,” Miner said. “It sounds cheesy, but I don’t think I would have been able to go back on the show without knowing that when it aired, I would have the full support of this community. I mean, underneath my Final Jeopardy answer, I wrote ‘Boola Boola.’”

Last fall, Matt Amodio GRD ’23 won 38 consecutive games, earning the third highest winnings of any “Jeopardy!” contestant in history. 

Molly Reinmann covers Admissions, Financial Aid & Alumni for the News. Originally from Westchester, New York, she is a sophomore in Berkeley College majoring in American Studies.