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UNT academy student wins Jeopardy contest

02/14/2012 11:33 PM

02/14/2012 11:44 PM

DENTON -- Eighteen-year-old Monica Thieu owes a little of her new-found fame to Afghanistan.

That country was the answer to the final question in this year's Jeopardy! College Championship. Contestants had to find the corresponding question to the following answer: "The 14 countries that border China run alphabetically from this to Vietnam."

Thieu choose a country that starts with the letter, A. "What is Afghanistan?"

"I just took a wild guess on that," Thieu said Tuesday after the airing of the final round of the contest.

Thieu is a student at the University of North Texas' Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science. She won the $100,000 prize, which she plans to use to help pay for college.

"Tuition is pretty expensive," said Thieu, who is thinking of going to medical school.

Thieu finished second in her quarterfinal round on Feb. 7 and advanced to the semifinals as a wildcard since she had one of the five highest nonwinning totals. She won her semifinal round Feb. 8 when she was the only contestant to answer the Final Jeopardy! question correctly, according to UNT.

Thieu said the Feb. 8 question, related to the fictional character "Tintin," helped take her to subsequent rounds.

Thieu, of Dallas, is a second-year student at the academy, according to UNT. The academy is a two-year residential program that allows talented students to complete their freshman and sophomore years of college while receiving the equivalent of high school diplomas.

Thieu, who will graduate from the academy in May, can either stay at UNT or enroll at another university to complete a bachelor's degree. She is the youngest of the three finalists, which included Sarah Bart, 22, of Goucher College in Baltimore and Zack Terrill, 21, of Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Thieu was the only student competing from Texas.

Thieu said she was getting a lot of attention since the show aired and experiencing her 15 minutes of fame as reporters called for reactions to her victory. "It's a little bit crazy," she said, adding that hardest thing about this experience has been keeping mum about the fact that she has known for days that she won. But she had to keep quiet until the show aired (the program taped 10 shows in two days about a month ago).

Now, Thieu can finally say the words: "I won."

Diane Smith, 817-390-7675

Twitter: @dianestar

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