CULVER CITY, CALIF. (Feb. 14, 2012) -- Monica Thieu, an 18-year-old psychology major at the University of North Texas, took first place in the "Jeopardy!" College Championship -- winning $100,000 and a guaranteed spot in the next Tournament of Champions. Thieu outscored 14 undergraduates from across the country and became the youngest College Championship winner ever since the tournament debuted in 1989.
"I hope my win shows other undergrads that they can do well regardless of experience or age," she said. "Just being in the tournament was completely surreal. I've wanted to be on 'Jeopardy!' for many years and to finally make it on is just unbelievable."
Thieu felt calm while waiting to play her first game, but admits that everything changed when she stepped onto the stage. "When Johnny Gilbert announced my name, I had the butterflies hit me full-on," she said. "I hardly even knew where I was at when Alex Trebek walked onto the stage!"
Besides winning, Thieu said the most exciting part of the experience was fulfilling her life-long dream of meeting "Jeopardy!" Host Alex Trebek. "He is a venerated figure in the trivia scene," she said. "As a trivia buff, I knew that meeting him would be the capstone of all my years of work."
Originally from Dallas, Texas, Thieu is a member of the university's a cappella singing group and involved with the theater club. She also enjoys attending university talks and was inspired to wear a pair of TOMS shoes on "Jeopardy!" after hearing the company's founder speak. "I think it's a great business model because you know exactly where the money goes, and you get a great product for yourself," she said regarding the company, which donates a pair of shoes for every pair purchased. "The shoes weren't lucky before but now that I've had such great success, I'm going to rock them during finals week!"
Thieu plans to use most of her winnings to pay off college and save the rest of it after a small shopping trip.
Sarah Bart, a senior at Goucher College, finished second in the competition, winning $50,000. Third place winner Zack Terrill, a senior at Vanderbilt University, earned $25,000.
"Jeopardy!," the winner of 29 Emmy awards, including the 2011 Emmy for Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Program, was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records for the most awards won by a TV Game Show. The series is the #1-rated quiz show in syndication with 25 million viewers each week. "Jeopardy!" is produced by Sony Pictures Television, a Sony Pictures Entertainment Company. It is distributed domestically by CBS Television Distribution and internationally by CBS Television International, both units of CBS Corp.