CULVER CITY, CALIF. (Feb. 12, 2013) - Leonard Cooper, a senior at eStem High Public Charter School in Little Rock, Ark., has defeated 14 of the sharpest teenage minds in America to win the JEOPARDY! Teen Tournament. In an episode that aired today, Cooper claimed the $75,000 grand prize, while Barrett Block, a senior at Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Ky., placed second and Nilai Sarda, a freshman at The Westminster Schools in Marietta, Ga., finished third.
"After the way the first half of the final went, I couldn't believe that I had actually come back and won," said Cooper, who trailed his competitors after the first game of the two-day final. "I think my classmates will be surprised when I win; I don't think anyone in the studio thought I had a chance going into the second half."
A risky $18,000 wager on a Daily Double in the category of "American Literature" was the decisive moment that led to Cooper's eventual victory.
"That was my first and only Daily Double of the entire tournament and I wasn't going to waste it," said Cooper, who turns 17 today. "I knew that I was behind and that betting big would be my only chance at winning the tournament, so I went for it and made up a lot of ground."
In addition to the large amount of cash at stake, Cooper's gutsy move was made even more audacious by the fact that it came in a category that he was hoping to avoid, a quirk of fate that he appreciates.
"After talking to the other contestants, who all loved literature and read much more than I did, I was hoping I wouldn't get a Lit category, which is really ironic," said Cooper. "I also really wanted to get a gaming category, which I did, after hearing that the others didn't play them. I had planned to sweep the categories I knew because I figured I would be able to control the board if I got to them, but that strategy evaporated quickly."
Cooper, who has played guitar for five years, mentioned that he might use some of his winnings to fund his extracurricular musical interest.
"Most of my winnings will definitely go towards college, but I will use a bit of it for new music equipment and other miscellaneous things," said Cooper.
JEOPARDY! airs locally in Little Rock at 11:00 a.m. on KATV-TV (ABC). For other markets, please check your local listings for air times. In case you missed the exciting finale, please visit your local affiliate's website for information on when you can see it in your area.
JEOPARDY!, the winner of a 2011 Peabody Award and 30 Emmy Awards, including the 2012 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. For more information, please visit Jeopardy.com.