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Wilhelm’s former PHCS teachers thrilled, not shocked with librarian’s Jeopardy! victory


PARISHVILLE - Parishville-Hopkinton Central School (PHCS) graduate Cori Wilhelm’s success on the game show Jeopardy! has captured the attention of her former school.

The Parishville resident appeared on the Alex Trebek-hosted show Friday, defeating a two time champion and earning $18,001 in the process. She was back on the show Monday and came one word short in the final Jeopardy! round from having a shot at another win.

After a slew of recent media coverage on the local woman, PHCS 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 during her years at the school.

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.

With the news spreading of Ms. Wilhelm’s impending second appearance Monday night, students and staff alike were making sure to mark their evening agendas Monday for a 30 minute free period starting at 7 p.m.

“I missed her (episode) 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 your family, when things happen they say, ‘Oh, the girl from Parishville, she won on Jeopardy!’ ... We had a soccer game on Friday night so I kind of forgot about it and then ‘boom.’ On Saturday morning I was like ‘Oh my gosh!’”

While Ms. Sinclair knew the local celebrity toward the end of her years at PHCS, Title 1 K-6 reading teacher Rose Rivezzi had Ms. Wilhelm as a student before she even reached double digits. Holding two class pictures from the early 1990s, Ms. Rivezzi was easily able to point out Ms. Wilhelm.

“In 1991-92 she was a fourth grader. So she would have been nine (years old) maybe going on 10,” she said. “She was bright, inquisitive, but in a quiet way. 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 read the article saying she was going to be on (the show) so I wasn’t surprised and I was looking forward to it. In fact I was going to write it in my planner at home and I had forgotten to. I got a text from a friend of mine that said, ‘Do you know somebody from Parishville is on Jeopardy tonight?’

“I said, ‘Oh my God thank you for reminding me’ and I turned it on and watched. I think Jeopardy! is the kind of show that everybody watches, regardless of if you think you’re smart or not. 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. Standing 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. What’s it called,” Mr. Trebek asked. “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,” Ms. Wilhelm responded.

The north country native finished the first round very strong, at one point answering a $600, $800, and $1,000 clue 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 out of her 10 responses correctly, including a $1,600 clue. In her two 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 her amount of $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, Cori’s response was read by Mr. Trebek and with likely much of her hometown of Parishville tuning in, they learned if her amazing journey 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 was good for 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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