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Penn Hills

Answer: This Penn Hills grad will be appearing on 'Jeopardy!'

Dillon Carr
| Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018, 11:15 a.m.
Carrie Blazina, 26, a 2010 Penn Hills graduate, smiles with 'Jeopardy!' host Alex Trebek.
Carrie Blazina, 26, a 2010 Penn Hills graduate, smiles with 'Jeopardy!' host Alex Trebek.

Who is Carrie Blazina?

Blazina, 26, a Penn Hills High School graduate, will appear on an episode of “Jeopardy!” airing Dec. 20, on NBC.

Blazina, 26, who lives in Cambridge, Mass., said she grew up watching the show. But although she is a fan, she never thought being a contestant was possible.

“I never really thought about it for myself. I didn’t think I was qualified,” she said. “They want really smart people. I’m smart, but not that smart.”

Blazina finished high school with a 4.0 GPA and was one of several valedictorians in her 2010 graduating class. She was part of the school’s Key, French and Drama clubs and a member of the National Honor Society. Blazina also competed on the high school’s Home Town High Q team in 2008 and 2009.

Though Blazina doubted herself, her mother believed in her.

“I always thought she should go on it,” said Jan Kukucka. “She taught herself to read at 3. She was talking in full sentences — so she’s always been very verbal, very smart.”

Kukucka said her daughter’s quick wit comes from her father, Ed Blazina, and her extended family — who played many trivia games with her as she was growing up.

“She participated in that for as long as I can remember, maybe from (age) 5 and on. She was answering questions sometimes that adults didn’t know,” Kukucka said.

Ed Blazina said he’s not sure where his daughter gets her smarts.

“A lot of it she got on her own, frankly. She’s quick to study on just about anything,” he said, adding he is proud beyond belief.

“It’s not an easy process at all. Have to be really sharp to get that far,” he said.

Blazina said she has taken the show’s online aptitude test twice. The second time she took the test was in 2017. A few months later, she was invited to an in-person audition, which she attended.

After months of silence, she began to think she hadn’t made the cut.

“I just started thinking, ‘Well, that was a nice experience.’ Suddenly, I was at work — the phone rings. I thought it might be spam, so I picked it up so it wouldn’t go to voicemail, and it was ‘Jeopardy!’ ” she said.

The taping of the show was scheduled for Nov. 6, about four weeks after she got the call inviting her to Los Angeles. In that short amount of time, she tried to prepare.

“I watch it a lot, but I started watching with a more critical eye. I used a pen for a fake buzzer. And I spent a fair amount of time studying,” Blazina said. Her areas of weakness, she realized, were geography, opera, religion, Shakespeare, math and science.

But she didn’t try to cram all of the unknown information into her brain in a matter of weeks.

“You have to prioritize —know what you don’t know. You’re not going to learn all of organic chemistry in four weeks. So I just asked myself, ‘What can I get a good handle on?’ Others may be more regimented,” she said.

As a copy editor for the Boston Globe, she realized her strengths were in languages, pop culture, U.S. history and grammar.

Blazina could not comment on her performance on the show, but she said the experience was unforgettable, particularly her interaction with the show’s longtime host, Alex Trebek.

“He was very nice, great,” she said. “After the show, he comes up to shake everyone’s hand. When he asked me how old I am, he said, ‘I have shoes older than you.’ ”

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, or via Twitter @dillonswriting.

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