Duke University student loses in quarterfinals on Jeopardy!

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Anna Muthalay, a junior student at Duke University, competes in the Jeopardy National College Championship.

Provided by Duke University

Duke University student Anna Muthalaly’s run in the “Jeopardy!” The national college championship ended in the quarterfinals on Tuesday after a fierce battle against students from Yale University and Carnegie Mellon University.

In a March Madness-style slice, Muthalaly walked away with $10,000.

She started off strong, answering the first few questions, but eventually ended up with a negative score and missed the Final Jeopardy round.

“It was the gift of an experience” Muthalaly said in an interview with The News & Observer before the show aired on ABC on Tuesday night.

She is proud that she was smart enough to beat all the other students who applied to appear on the show. She said she knew it was a combination of hard work and luck that brought her to the stage.

“The best things in life come from hard work,” she said.

The 20-year-old junior from Hoover, Alabama is studying public policy and global health with a minor in statistics at Duke.

Anna Muthalay, Duke Class of 2023
Anna Muthalay, a junior student at Duke University, competes in the Jeopardy National College Championship. Provided by Duke University

Participation in the quiz bowl

Muthalaly grew up playing college quizzes on the national stage. Last fall, she landed on the biggest stage and spent her Thanksgiving break in Los Angeles filming “Jeopardy!” This happened two days after taking a midterm exam and a week after performing a show with Duke’s theater studies department.

The three days of filming involved taking silly selfies with new friends, snapping glamorous shots for promos, playing tourist on TV sets in Culver City, and taking part in a high-stakes trivia game. One of 36 undergraduates who win will walk away with a quarter of a million dollars.

Muthalaly admits she didn’t study much for “Jeopardy!” and was more focused on her economics exam. But years of quizzing as a team have helped prepare her for now.

“Whatever you have in your brain, you’re going to run with it,” Muthalaly said.

She compared being on “Jeopardy!” baseball players dreaming of playing in the MLB.

She decided to apply for the show and take the initial test during her sophomore year at Duke. Several months later, she received a text message during sat in that economics class in August confirming a few details about her candidacy and that she would be available to compete.

After a thorough background check and several rounds of auditions via Zoom, she received the final confirmation call.

Although trivia may seem unnecessary to some, Muthalaly said, trivia is about knowing important things about the world.

Anna Muthalay Jeopardy.jpeg
Anna Muthalay, a junior student at Duke University, competes in the Jeopardy National College Championship. Provided by Duke University

Live after “Jeopardy!”

Now that she’s back in Durham, Muthalaly is focusing on her studies at Duke and preparing for an upcoming TED Talk on Models of Consent in the South. She is working to pursue a career that combines her talents as a writer, thinker and activist, with a particular focus on women’s reproductive rights.

This could be writing policy and influencing lawmakers or writing opinion pieces for the New York Times.

Although she didn’t win the top prize, Muthalaly is grateful for the experience and the exposure.

“I’m so thankful that I worked really hard on something and it resulted in all that money and public intrigue,” she said.

The semi-finals of the “Jeopardy!” The National College Championship airs Thursday and Friday, and the final airs Tuesday, February 22.

Anna Muthalay on set 2.jpeg
Anna Muthalay, a junior student at Duke University, competes in the Jeopardy National College Championship. Provided by Duke University

This story was originally published February 15, 2022 9:37 p.m.

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Kate Murphy covers higher education for The News & Observer. Previously, she covered higher education for the Cincinnati Enquirer on the Investigative and Corporate Team and USA Today Network. Her work has won state awards in Ohio and Kentucky and she was recently named the Education Writers Association’s 2019 Finalist for Digital Storytelling.
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