Lakewood Ranch native Hannah Sage earned $25,000 on 'Jeopardy!' in April. We picked her big brain to find out what she plans to do with her winnings and how she got so smart.
Hannah Sage is the kind of 19-year-old daughter parents brag about at dinner parties. A sophomore at the University of Central Florida, she’s a mathematics major on a biology track who plans to go to medical school to become a dermatologist. She graduated from St. Stephen’s Episcopal School and grew up in Lakewood Ranch’s Summerfield Hollow, where she spent her childhood reading books and skirting the lure of video games and mindless kitten videos on YouTube.
The daughter of educators — her father is a math teacher at Horizons Academy in Bradenton and her mother is the assistant director of Manatee Technical College’s West Campus — Sage had one favorite TV show as a kid: “Jeopardy!”
In April, the UCF undergrad appeared on the program, competing against 14 other college students in the show’s 2018 College Championship” After advancing to the second round of finals, Sage placed third, earning $25,000 and a ton of cred on campus.
“I had a donor invite me to sit in their suite during the UCF Spring (football) Game — they showed us on the big screen,” Sage says. “They threw a party for me and made cookies with photos of me on them. Random people come up to me to congratulate me. It’s been really cool.”
What question are you kicking yourself over right now?
The final “Jeopardy!” question from my quarterfinal episode: “This president took the oath of office twice, 14 months apart.” I wrote down Grover Cleveland. For some reason he was the only president I could think of. The answer was Lyndon B. Johnson, and as soon as I heard the answer, I was like, “Oh, that makes so much more sense!”
What do you plan to do with your prize money?
I’m going to use some of it to travel to Italy and then save the rest of it for medical school.
That’s very practical. You don’t want to splurge on anything frivolous?
The trip to Italy is a splurge. I’m an art history minor and I really like Italian art, especially Bernini. I want to go to Italy and look at all sorts of pretty sculptures and eat yummy food.
What’s your favorite “Jeopardy!” category?
Rhyme Time makes me happy. The words are always funny and cute.
What’s your worst category?
Anything sports related. During our quarterfinals episode, we had a category about baseball, and we all just stared at it. Luckily, my competitors also didn’t know anything about sports.
Is there a “Wheel of Fortune” in your future?
I’m pretty sure I can’t be on “Wheel of Fortune.” You sign a contract with “Jeopardy!” that says you agree to not participate in any other game show for six months after the show airs. I don’t know about “Wheel of Fortune.” I feel like being on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” would be pretty cool.
How did you get on the show?
It’s a long process. At certain times during the year ‘Jeopardy!’ puts a test on its website, and there’s one specifically for the college tournament. I took it and scored high enough that I was invited to do an in-person audition in Atlanta. I went there with three other friends who go to UCF. At the audition, I took a written test and played a mock game of “Jeopardy!” Then they interviewed me and said, “You’ll either hear from us, or not.”
And then they called and it felt like Gloria in “White Men Can’t Jump.”
(Awkward pause.) Well, we auditioned in October and I found out in December that I had made it. We were supposed to tape in January, but Alex Trebek had brain surgery, so we ended up taping in the middle of March.
Alex Trebek is incredible. Is he as ageless in person as he is on TV?
Yes. It’s kind of surprising. It didn’t look like he had on a lot of makeup either. It’s true, he doesn’t age.
You didn’t play video games as a kid. How do I get my 7-year-old to ditch his iPad? Is “Minecraft” rotting his brain?
Oh, that’s tough. When I was a kid my mom just wouldn’t let me on that stuff. I wasn’t allowed to have anything like a phone or an iPad until I was in sixth grade and had enough money to buy one. She would just hand me a book and say, “Read.” I was OK with it because I liked to read.
What did you read?
I read anything I could get my hands on. In fourth grade, we had a time during the day when we could quietly read whatever book we had with us. I was sitting in the hallway reading “Harry Potter” and some kid was like, “You’re too young to read that.” I was like, “Watch me,” and I read a whole page of it to him.
You’re a math major who plans to go to med school. What’s your one guilty pleasure?
I really enjoy watching terrible reality television with my mother. We watch a lot of the “Real Housewives” shows on Bravo. It’s enjoyable to watch super unnecessary drama that’s not mine. It doesn’t require brain power.
Does “Jeopardy!” have a good craft services table?
Sony Studios has a cafeteria. I had a cheeseburger that was yummy. At the end of it all, they gave us a giant vanilla sheet cake with strawberries in it. And chicken fingers.
What advice do you have for kids who also wish to get on a game show?
Just go for it. I’m only a sophomore, so when I auditioned I didn’t think they’d pick me. I figured if I was a senior, they’d be more likely to choose me. When I took the test, I took it to see what it was like because I didn’t think I’d get that far. If there’s anything you want to do, just give it a shot. You never know what it’ll lead to.