Darien teens realize Jeopardy dreams

Photo of Justin Papp
Darien teens Michael Borecki, left, and Porter Bowman competed in
Darien teens Michael Borecki, left, and Porter Bowman competed in “Teen Jeopardy” at the DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., on April 12 and 13. Their episodes will be televised in September.Justin Papp / Hearst Connecticut Media

DARIEN — For Michael Borecki, meeting Alex Trebek had long been a dream.

Ever since an elementary school teacher suggested that he might enjoy “Jeopardy,” Borecki has tuned in regularly, practicing his trivia chops in the meantime in geography bees and school Quizbowl competitions and thinking always of the day he might walk onto the set of the show.

Now a 17-year-old junior at Darien High School, Borecki’s dream recently came true. He and fellow 17-year-old Darien native Porter Bowman, a junior at St. Luke’s School, were recently among 15 contestants aged 14 to 17 invited to the D.A.R. Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., on April 12 and 13 to compete in a Jeopardy Teen Tournament. The boys’ quarterfinals matches will be shown in September.

“Just being on the show was sort of a dream come true. We got a decent amount of rehearsal time. I was a complete nervous wreck before we started rehearsing, so that really helped get the nerves out,” Borecki said.

Borecki and Bowman first met and became friends at Middlesex Middle School as members of its Quizbowl team. They now attend different schools and pursue different interests. Borecki runs track and cross country at DHS and hopes to study economics in college, Bowman was recently elected school president, plays on St. Luke’s basketball team and envisions himself studying public policy or political science in college. But the boys said they’ve always had one thing in common.

“It’s always just been a passion for knowledge,” Bowman said. Michael and I have been doing Middlesex and Darien Quizbowl for a while and it’s just something we’ve kept doing. A lot of kids are interested in school and are passionate about different things, but we found this other competitive nature and “Jeopardy” is the most well known version of that.”

As a consequence of the show’s renown, the boys had to beat out a vast number of “Jeopardy” hopefuls, beginning with an online test.

“I heard from the people at ‘Jeopardy’ that 5,000 people took the teen online test. Those who pass are randomly selected for an audition in their preferred audition city. Porter and I both drew auditions in New York,” Borecki said.

“In the audition, you do a test where they grade you on different questions. They have a mock game, so you practice with the buzzer and with the questions up on the screen. And then they have an interview. At that point I was confident that I had showed the best part of me that I could,” Bowman added. This was his second time auditioning for the show — in his first attempt, as a nerve-addled freshmen, he was not chosen to appear.

Because their respective opening round episodes are yet to air, neither Borecki nor Bowman could disclose how they fared. Whether they met in later rounds, or whether one of them took home the $100,000 grand prize, is anyone’s guess. They were, however, permitted to share the details of their encounters with the show’s iconic host.

“He was interesting. I mean, he’s been doing that job for 30-something years and he’s very good at it,” Bowman said. “He knows what to do, he knows what to say, he knows his role. And, like he says, he likes to spend time with smart people, not stupid people. And the people that come on ‘Jeopardy’ are the kinds of people he enjoys meeting and spending time with.”

“When we actually walked out onto that stage, we were waiting there for a couple minutes and then Alex Trebek sort of walked out of his entrance and was standing by the screen. It was incredibly surreal. Sort of a ‘wow’ moment,” Borecki said.

justin.papp@scni.com; dariennewsonline.com