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PHCS 2000 graduate to appear on Friday’s episode of ‘Jeopardy

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PARISHVILLE — Answer: This Parishville-Hopkinton Central School graduate will be featured on Friday’s episode of “Jeopardy!”

Question: Who is Cori Wilhelm?

A 2000 graduate of Parishville-Hopkington, Ms. Wilhelm will be one of the three contestants on the Friday edition of the game show created by Merv Griffin, which was ranked number 1 in TV Guide’s most recent list of the 60 greatest game shows ever.

Ms. Wilhelm received an undergraduate degree in history from St. Lawrence University, Canton, a master’s degree in education from SUNY Potsdam and another degree from the University at Buffalo in library science.

“I guess those are good majors for ‘Jeopardy!’” she said.

The daughter of Parishville residents Llona I. and Fred Wilhelm, she works as a librarian at SUNY Canton. Her parents were in the live audience when she competed.

“A shuttle picked up all of the ‘Jeopardy!’ contestants, and I found my way there with my husband,” Llona said. “I watched ‘Jeopardy!’ when Art Fleming used to (host) it. I’ve been watching for over 30 years. It’s so completely different seeing it live versus the filmed version on TV.

“Alex (Trebek) fielded some questions from the audience. I was surprised with the camaraderie in the audience. We sat with the families and friends from the other contestants from all over the country, and that was very cool. It will be neat to watch the show again on television after meeting these people in person at the hotel.”

Ms. Wilhelm said she had taken the online qualification test about five times before and had auditioned previously in Boston. She had never made it to the big stage, however, a place that she described as intimidating.

“I was definitely very nervous. I was prepared to be nervous, but it was not what I expected. The set was intimidating. There were 100 people in the audience, and that was a bit unnerving,” she said. “The stage was large, and there were a lot of bright lights and cameras. The game is very fast. There are some breaks, but they are only two or three minutes.”

Ms. Wilhelm said she was encouraged a bit by family members and friends to take the online qualification test, but she felt like taking it mostly for fun. She said she was surprised when she received the phone call in June, informing her she would be going to the Los Angeles studios to appear on the show.

Those who make it past the online test travel to a site for an audition in a large pool of contestants. Having auditioned previously in Boston, Ms. Wilhelm did the same in Niagara Falls in April. In June, she received the call and found out she would be on the game show.

Mrs. Wilhelm said her daughter had tried the online test before and actually made it past that round. That is where her journey came to a halt.

“I don’t know if the public understands the difficulty of getting through this process. It’s very difficult,” the contestant’s mother said. “I’m a retired teacher and we used to do trivia games in the car. We played (Trivial Pursuit) from time to time, but not too much.”

“I wasn’t surprised at all she was able to do this. My kids are all bright, and of course I’ll say that because I’m their mother. I’m very proud. It’s a great experience that I wish everyone could have.”

When most think of “Jeopardy!,” they think of one constant, iconic figure, Alex Trebek. Ms. Wilhelm said he may not be the kind of guy viewers make him out to be.

“Alex chats with the audience in between and he’s quite funny. He answered many of their questions. He was friendly, and people may think he’s snobby, but he’s not. He’s very friendly and funny,” she said.

She said she is strongest in geography- and history-related categories, while sometimes struggling with sports and Bible questions. Fortunately there were few questions on LeBron James, Miguel Cabrera and Adam and Eve.

Leading up to Ms. Wilhelm’s appearance Friday, both she and her mother are nervous, excited and anticipating a sense of relief.

“We’ve been encouraging (family and friends) to watch all this week to lead up to Cori’s appearance,” Llona said. “I had always thought about going to a live show, but we didn’t go when we were in California before. It was cool to be able to go and see Cori there. My husband initially was a bit nervous and didn’t want to go but soon realized it was a once-in-lifetime-opportunity and changed his mind.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been on TV before. I’ll be nervous but also excited to see myself on TV. Everybody’s been asking how I did and I’m not allowed to tell. I’m sure I’ll be a little cringy seeing myself on TV. But I am having a little party to watch next week,” Ms. Wilhelm added.

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