Niki Peters was in the lead going into Final Jeopardy Friday, but she got the final answer wrong.
Asked who cast 12,810 votes in a U.S. Senate career spanning from 1973 to 2009, Peters guessed Robert Byrd. The correct answer was Joe Biden, and Peters ended up in second place.
But the University of California, Berkeley sophomore wasn’t disappointed, especially since she had the flu during the January taping, according to a news release from the popular television game show.
“It was, and is, absolutely insane that I won $50,000,” Peters said in the news release. “When I ended up being so sick for the tournament, I was really not expecting to accomplish much.”
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The tournament winner, University of Southern California junior Sam Deutsch, won $100,000. About 15,000 college students from across the nation vied for a slot in the televised tournament, and only 15 made the cut. Three, including Peters, made it to the finals, which aired Thursday and Friday evenings.
Peters is an old hand at academic quiz competitions and is president of Berkeley’s quiz bowl, one of the largest in the nation. But she told the Berkeley News Feb. 1 that she was “pretty nervous having to seem smart on national television.” She told the college newspaper a bout with the flu was “a total disaster in terms of slowing down the reflexes I needed to buzz in fast.”
Peters grew up in Boise but her family spent two years in Shanghai, China, when she was in the sixth and seventh grades, according to a Berkeley News article. She attended Timberline High School and the Treasure Valley Math and Science Center at the same time, then moved to San Jose with her family midway through her senior year, she told the newspaper.
While in Boise, she did two internships: first with an Idaho State University pharmacy professor doing computational chemistry research on treating addiction and schizophrenia, and later in a Boise State University lab researching the effects of collagen on human breast cancer cells, the Berkeley News reports.
An integrative biology major with plans to attend medical school, Peters exceled in science and literature categories during her four televised games of “Jeopardy!” She was one of 15 students who made it to the televised college tournament from among 15,000 contenders.