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LR student makes finals in Jeopardy teen edition

By Cammie Bellamy

This article was published July 31, 2014 at 4:09 a.m.

A Little Rock teenager has earned a shot at $75,000 in the Jeopardy "Teen Tournament" finals, airing today and Friday.

Cooper Lair, a 15-year-old sophomore at Little Rock Christian Academy, qualified after besting two competitors in the tournament semifinals Tuesday. The competition started with a pool of 15 teenagers from around the country. Now, it's down to Lair, 17-year-old Jeff Xie of Edison, N.J., and 17-year old Alan Koolik of Boca Raton, Fla.

The teenager who takes first place will win $75,000, while the runner-up will get a minimum of $25,000 and the second runner-up will take home at least $15,000.

Lair is the third Arkansas teenager to compete on the show. Last year, then-17-year-old Leonard Cooper, a student at Little Rock's eStem High Public Charter School, won the "Teen Tournament." Maggie Speak, a Jeopardy producer who works with tournament contestants, said she's loved getting to know Lair.

"He's one of the nicest kids, super smart," she said. "We've done well with the Little Rock area."

On Wednesday, Little Rock Christian Academy Head of School Gary Arnold said through a spokesman that school officials are proud of Lair's achievement.

"Frankly, we're not surprised," Arnold said through spokesman Debbie Davis. "After leading his Quiz Bowl team to a state championship, it's time Cooper took it national."

Speak said even making it into the "Teen Tournament" contestant pool is a challenge. Out of thousands of teenagers who apply through an online test, producers give 300 the chance to audition, eventually narrowing the group down to 15.

She said the tournament showcases some of the nation's brightest youths.

"The news is so negative, and people can feel like they don't have a lot of hope for the future, but when you deal with and meet the kids that do Jeopardy and "Teen Tournament," you really know that our future is in good hands," she said.

The Teen Tournament finals will air today and Friday at 2 p.m. on KATV, Channel 7.

Metro on 07/31/2014

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