Amid all the excitement before Will Walters' appearance on Jeopardy aired Tuesday night, the 13-year-old was feeling a little nervous, wondering months after the taping "whether I sound stupid."
Will, of Lexington, won $29,999, answering three Double Jeopardy prompts correctly.
He said he "just kinda got in the zone. Once it came time, I was prepared."
Later, he added, "It was more fun watching it than it was playing it."
Neither of the other players could have caught up with him going into the Final Jeopardy round. He would have won an even $30,000, but he said he chose to bet $1 on Final Jeopardy because he wasn't very familiar with the topic — "Famous Women in History" — and didn't know whether he could bet $0.
Because it was Kids Week, Will's was a one-time appearance, unlike the traditional Jeopardy format in which champions return.
Will's mom, Billie, had brought in extra televisions for the occasion — they were on the kitchen counter, in the living room, sun room, on the buffet in the dining room and in front of the fireplace in the family room as dozens of friends and family gathered around.
When it came time for Will to tell host Alex Trebek about himself, Trebek mentioned that he'd heard Will had written a novel.
"Well, it's not really a novel," Will replied. "It's more of a novella." He went on to explain a bit about the plot of the unpublished Sugar Highs and Conspiracy Theories that he wrote in language arts class.
Most of his winnings will go into his college fund, although Will's mom said she and her husband, John, have agreed to let him use some of it for a new drum set. Will is first percussion chair in his school's band.
In addition to the cash prize, Will also won a trip to Costa Rica. In January, the family of five will sail through the Panama Canal for a vacation that includes everything from hiking in the rainforest to scuba diving.
Billie Walters said she was teary-eyed as she sat in the audience the day of the taping.
"I just kept saying to myself, 'I can't believe that's my child.' I cried the whole time," she recalled. "He must get his nerves from his father because he doesn't get them from me."
"We were both way more nervous than he was," John Walters said.
Will, who will be an eighth-grader at Lexington Traditional Magnet School this fall, hopes to attend Dunbar High School's Math, Science and Technology Center, and he'd like to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
His career goal? "Theoretical physicist."
Reach Karla Ward at (859) 231-3314 or 1-800 950-6397, Ext. 3314.