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Parishville-Hopkinton educators Wilhelm’s former PHCS teachers thrilled, not shocked with librarian’s Jeopardy! victory

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PARISHVILLE — Parishville-Hopkinton Central School alumna Cori Wilhelm’s success on the game show “Jeopardy!” has captured the attention of her former school.

The Parishville resident appeared Friday on popular game show hosted by Alex Trebek, defeating a two-time champion and earning $18,001 in the process. Her run ended with Monday’s show, however, when she was off by one word in the answer to the final question.

After a slew of recent media coverage, Parishville-Hopkinton staff fondly recalled Ms. Wilhelm’s time at school. Her father, Fred, is a current school board member.

“She was bright but she was also a hard worker and I do think that that tends to be a better way to go. It gives you the good work ethic,” librarian Irene Sinclair said.

“She was a very good student. She was very outgoing. She was very well-liked, very approachable, just a nice girl.”

Ms. Sinclair added that Ms. Wilhelm played varsity soccer, was a senior band member and was the senior class president.

Ms. Wilhelm had stated that she was strongest in geography- and history-related categories, something that is clearly evident by her place on “the wall” in a social studies classroom. Students who achieved a score of 90 or above in the history section of the Regents exam earned a place on the wall, something she did during her junior year in 1999.

As news spread that Ms. Wilhelm would be back on “Jeopardy!” Monday night, members of the school community made time to watch the 7 p.m. show.

“I missed her on Friday but Saturday morning I read the newspaper article and saw that she was in there,” Ms. Sinclair said. Parishville “is such a small community that you’re family; when things happen they say, ‘Oh, the girl from Parishville, she won on ‘Jeopardy!’”

Reading teacher Rose Rivezzi had Ms. Wilhelm as a student in the early 1990s. Holding two class pictures, Ms. Rivezzi was easily able to point out Ms. Wilhelm.

“She was bright, inquisitive, but in a quiet way,” Ms. Rivezzi said. “She was not an out-there, ‘everybody-notice-me’ kind of girl. She was a reader. She was a thinker. I’m not surprised that she’s a librarian, and I’m not surprised that she’s on ‘Jeopardy!’”

“I think ‘Jeopardy!’ is the kind of show that everybody watches, regardless of if you think you’re smart or not,” Ms. Rivezzi said. “That’s where our trivia nights have built out from. So people get fascinated with it and when somebody of your community reaches that level, it’s exciting.”

Going into Monday’s appearance, Ms. Wilhelm had already earned what some do in an entire year of work. Facing challengers Marc and Mary, the competition was close through round 1.

Ms. Wilhelm answered four clues correctly prior to the commercial break in the lead-off round, while also answering a $400 clue incorrectly.

As she stood at $400 total coming back from the break, host Alex Trebek went through his typical contestant introduction segment of the program.

“Our champion is Cori Wilhelm, a college librarian from New York, and you have an unusual dog, I believe,” Mr. Trebek said. “What’s it called?”

Ms. Wilhelm responded: “She’s called a Potcake. A Potcake is a street dog, a feral dog from the Caribbean. She’s from the Turks and Caicos, and rescue organizations rescue them as puppies and adopt them out to families.”

The north country native finished the first round very strongly, at one point answering $600, $800 and $1,000 clues correctly in succession. She took another narrow lead into intermission with $3,400, followed by Mary with $3,000 and Marc with $2,600.

Round two saw Ms. Wilhelm answer eight of her 10 responses correctly, including a $1,600 clue.

In her two incorrect responses, she lost a total of $1,800.

Entering the ”Final Jeopardy!” round, Ms. Wilhelm was trailing Marc ($11,600) and leading Mary ($4,600) with $10,200. The competitors faced the category of “Toys” and the answer: “A caveman-themed game in which rocks were thrown at other players, led to the creation of this product in 1969.”

In third place, Mary had the correct response of “What is a Nerf ball?” upping her final amount to $7,100. So, still leading Mary, Ms. Wilhelm’s response was read by Mr. Trebek as many in hometown Parishville tuned to learn if her streak would go on another day.

“She’s not looking happy. Well, let’s see what she wrote down,” the host said. “Your response was ‘What is a Nerf Gun?’ You got part of it right. The Nerf ball in 1969, the gun about 25 years later, so it’s going to go against you and you’re going to lose everything but $2.”

The finish meant third place for Ms. Wilhelm, earning an additional $1,000 and bringing her “Jeopardy!” career to a close, having earned $19,001.

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