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Sunday, September 21, 2014, 7:26 a.m.
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Jeopardy! enriches LR student

He wins $31,200, misses teen title; broadcast interrupted

By Cammie Bellamy

This article was published August 2, 2014 at 3:23 a.m.

After a dramatic finale, Little Rock's Cooper Lair fell shy of the grand prize on the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament.

But the 16-year-old contestant took home $31,200 as the second runner-up.

Lair, a junior at Little Rock Christian Academy, ended the first day of the tournament finale with just $200. But he picked up steam in the second day of competition, which went on the air Friday, against 17-year-old Jeff Xie of Edison, N.J., and 17-year old Alan Koolik of Boca Raton, Fla.

After the regular competition's final question, Xie and Koolik were tied at $54,200, triggering a rare sudden-death round that saw Xie pocket the $75,000 top prize.

On Friday, dozens of Lair's friends, family members and well-wishers gathered with Lair at Jim's Razorback Pizza in Little Rock for a Jeopardy! Teen Tournament viewing party.

By the time the taped finale was set to air at 2 p.m., Lair said he was still not used to watching himself on television.

"It's a unique experience, not necessarily a good one," he said.

But to the crowd's disappointment, no one at the viewing party got to watch Lair's performance Friday -- remarks from President Barack Obama on Ukraine broadcast on ABC interrupted the Jeopardy! episode. KATV tweeted Friday that it plans to air the tournament in full today at 5 p.m.

Christy Banks, a longtime Lair family friend who attended the viewing party, said she wished that the president had spoken later.

"I am not very happy with him," she said. "It didn't sound like it was anything that important, either, that couldn't have waited 30 minutes, don't you think?"

When 2:30 p.m. rolled around and the show still had not aired, the restaurant's TVs were muted as Lair's father, Craig Lair, stood up on a chair to announce the results.

"Cooper bounced back from $200 to $31,200," he said to raucous applause.

After his father announced his winnings, Cooper Lair said he would put most of the money into a college fund but hoped to spend some on a trip to Italy.

Another Jeopardy! notable was also at Friday's viewing party. Last year's Teen Tournament winner, Leonard Cooper, a former student at Little Rock's eStem High Public Charter School, was there to cheer for Lair.

Now 18, and and one year into school at Brown University, where he studies biology, Cooper said it was strange to be on the other side of things.

"I'm having a few flashbacks," he said. "From the outside-in, especially, it's weird."

As the viewing party wound down, Banks said she and her family have loved watching Lair on Jeopardy!. Her son is in Lair's grade at Little Rock Christian Academy, and she said the competition has been a point of pride for the school community.

"He's a super smart kid, and we're proud to know him, and we're proud of all he's accomplished," she said.

Metro on 08/02/2014

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Displaying 1 - 6 of 6 total comments

hlair08290721 says... August 2, 2014 at 6:23 a.m.

Congrats to Cooper from Aunt Christy and grandparents Herb and Sandy Lair in Harrison

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Populist says... August 2, 2014 at 7:06 a.m.

Wonderful! All Arkansans are proud.

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Dontsufferfools says... August 2, 2014 at 8:37 a.m.

Nice job. He didn't "take home" the $31,000, though as the story says. The prizes in the finals are 75K, 25K and 15K.

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Craigsl says... August 2, 2014 at 8:37 a.m.

Well said Christy Banks.

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hlair08290721 says... August 2, 2014 at 9:46 a.m.

Winner:1Jeff Xie
1st runner-up:1Alan Koolik ($54,200)
2nd runner-up: Cooper Lair ($31,200)

The $75K, $25K, and $15K are minimums - if you do better in finals you get to keep it

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Dontsufferfools says... August 2, 2014 at 4:59 p.m.

Thanks for clearing that up for me.

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