"There were always situations when a teacher would ask for quick recall of a fact, as part of engaging the class in the lesson, and you had to come up with the answer quickly or someone else would answer first," said Taglic, while reflecting on his time at Regis. "Regis classes and faculty instruction certainly improved my ability to recall information quickly. Especially Mr. Scacalossi’s infamous Scac Attacks."
Above: Sporting a red Regis tie and lapel pin, Joe Taglic '14 poses for a photo with Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek. Photo courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.
Taglic's journey to the Jeopardy! set at the Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California started back in the fall, when he took an online test designed for students interested in competing for a spot on the show. Not too long after that test, Taglic was invited to a second round of test-taking held at an audition site here in New York City. "I went into the audition completely not expecting to make it to the show. Even Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, the two best Jeopardy! players ever, didn’t make it on their first audition. I went in relaxed and focused on having a good time."
The audition involved another test, a mock-game of Jeopardy! against two other potential contestants, and a filmed mock-interview. "I think they wanted to make sure candidates could sound interesting on camera, so I used all the Hearn tricks I could think of," quipped Taglic. "It must have worked, as they offered me a spot on the show."
The call to appear on the show did not come until the spring. "My immediate reaction was shocked joy. I remember immediately running to exclaim the news to my family. It was an amazing feeling, but I knew there was work to be done."
The work Taglic refers to was his mental preparation for competition, another lesson learned well while at Regis. "As the Quiz Bowl co-captain at Regis, I had some experience with knowledge and trivia competitions, so Jeopardy! was pretty much just the biggest tournament I have ever had to prepare for. I isolated my strengths—math and science—and figured I would need to work on literature, geography, art, and history."
As if preparing for a Mr. Connelly history lesson, Taglic turned to some old-fashioned techniques, with a modern upgrade. "My first priority was state capitals and world capitals. So I spent a week's worth of train rides running through digital flash cards on my phone. And whenever I had free time, I was using the J! Archive—an ever-expanding database of every Jeopardy! episode in recent history—to look at questions from past Teen Tournament games and get a feel for what I should know in terms of other categories."
"I realized I knew plenty of history from my studies at Regis and just from playing Quiz Bowl, and so my focus shifted to literature. With apologies to Dr. Tricamo and Mr. Vode, I scanned the Sparknotes entries for a few important books I had not yet read, and spent some time learning about some of the more famous artists that might come up."
After a month of secret preparation, it was time for Taglic to fly to Los Angeles for the competition. With his Regis tie and pin packed away, Taglic made his way to California. "I brought a book from the local library for the flight, which I found extremely helpful. The book is Prisoner of Trebekistan by Jeopardy! Champion Bob Harris. It made me feel comfortable with the situation I was in by letting me know what to expect. Any fan of Jeopardy! or trivia in general should read it; I cannot speak of it highly enough."
Upon reflecting on the experience, Taglic added, "Representing Regis was a lot of fun and I was proud to do so in this way because I felt like I was doing my best to demonstrate the academic caliber of our entire school. I give credit to my teachers at Regis for giving me the knowledge to do well at Jeopardy! in the first place. But also watching Jeopardy! nightly and playing along religiously certainly helped too!"
Taglic's episode in the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament quarterfinals will air on Friday, July 25. Regis High School will show the episode live at 7pm, followed by a Regis Centennial Trivia Challenge. There will be snacks, refreshments, and fun prizes for all in attendance (to register: https://community.regis.org/centennial-trivia-night).
If you cannot attend, but would like to watch the episode, be sure to check your local listings for time and channel: https://www.jeopardy.com/showguide/whentowatch/
Founded in 1914 by an anonymous benefactor and supported by the generosity of her family, its alumni and friends, Regis High School offers tuition-free Jesuit college preparatory education to Roman Catholic young men from the New York metropolitan area who demonstrate superior intellectual and leadership potential. In the admissions process, special consideration is given to those who cannot otherwise afford a Catholic education. Regis High School remains the only all-scholarship Catholic secondary school in the country.
Below: A promotional video for the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament featuring Joe Taglic '14: