CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Jessica Young has a mind for trivia.
She's not sure why — probably something to do with her reflexes, she guesses — but she's seen all the ways it manifests itself: in high school quiz bowl tournaments, marathon sessions of Trivial Pursuit and so many answers shouted at the television during episodes of game shows.
"My mind is just really good at absorbing really useless information," said the 27-year-old Putnam County native.
But this time around, it has shown itself in an especially public way — Young was chosen to take part in that classic venue for displaying trivia prowess: "Jeopardy!" She applied on a whim in January, and after several rounds of tests and auditions, she competed in the classic game show in September. Her episode airs at 7:30 p.m. today.
She can't betray the results until the show airs but says she's happy with how it went. She slipped a few times, of course, but knew the answers to most questions.
The trick to playing the game for real, she says, lies in a key difference between one's living room and the actual set of a game show: the buzzer. The complexity of the system — you have to wait for a light to signal that it's time and then buzz in before anyone else — is tricky and impossible to practice at home.
"So it's not necessarily about how much you know; it's about how you can work the buzzer," Young said. "If you get on a roll, you get the rhythm right, but if you take a while answering the question, you can get way off."
After years of watching the show on TV (it's older than she is, having been on the air in some format since 1964), she said it was surreal to actually find herself on the set, mere feet away from the show's long-time host, Alex Trebek.
"His suits are incredible in person," she said. "But the thing I noticed most when I was with him is that he has really beautiful skin. I know that's really creepy, but it was just really clear."
In the end, the whole thing was really more about coming home from a trip to L.A. with inside information about "Jeopardy!" and Alex Trebek's suits than it ever was about winning.
When she first applied for the show, she recently had received a master's degree from Northwestern University in Chicago (before that, she went to WVU and Winfield High School) and was unemployed, looking for a job. She had long been thinking about trying out for the show, but something about that time nudged her toward the online application.
"I don't know why I decided this should be the year I try," she said. "But it was nothing, nothing, nothing, and then all of a sudden I got to be on 'Jeopardy!' and I got a job."
In 2004, Young was one of five high school seniors statewide to be selected as a Foundation Scholar by WVU. She now lives in Arizona, working as an archaeologist with an environmental consulting company.
Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.ma...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.