By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — Lloyd Sy dethroned a “Jeopardy!” super-champion. Then he defended his title with a second-straight victory on the long-running quiz show.
Tonight, the 2012 Auburn High School valedictorian’s quest for a third-straight victory will air. It was taped in mid-November, but he’s sworn to secrecy on the results.
“My mother came to watch, so she knows exactly how it went,” said Sy, a 28-year-old Ph.D. candidate at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. “I hate having to say, ‘I’m not allowed to say.'”
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Sy, who is the son of Larry and Esther Sy, has long been a fan of the show. His decision to compete started with a pretty simple ambition.
“I wanted extra money, basically,” he said, “and I knew I was good at trivia.”
So he filled out the 50-question test this summer while sitting inside a Starbucks on Perryville Road to start the process of qualifying to be on the show.
Now, he’s racked up $53,578 in two days of winnings.
He won $24,490 the first day by beating Ray Lalonde of Toronto and Claire Theoret of Vermont. LaLonde was a 13-time champion whose streak had made him a hit with fans of the show. The title of “super champion” is given to anyone with more than 10 consecutive wins on the show.
“Ray was a very popular champion, and he’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” Sy said.
Sy followed that performance by winning $29,088 in the second day against Francis Englert of New Jersey and Sarah Palmer of Monterey, California.
He faces Patrick Curran of Washington, D.C. and Lois Casaleggi of Chicago on night three.
Sy, who is home for the holidays while pursuing his doctorate in English literature, has showcased his hometown pride while garnering national attention. In doing so, he’s taking a page from the playbook of his former Auburn classmate Fred VanVleet, who famously gave Rockford a shout-out after winning an NBA Championship with the Toronto Raptors in 2019. Sy and VanVleet graduated in the same class.
“I take as a model Fred VanVleet, who is always happy to say he’s from Rockford,” Sy said. “It’s a place that a lot of people are not that happy to say that they’re from, and I’ve never really understood that because to me it’s still the most wonderful city in the world.”
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Sy, who graduated from Brown University in 2016 before pursuing his doctorate, said he didn’t do much training specifically for “Jeopardy!” A few weeks before the show, he practiced his timing by taking quiz questions from friends while using a ballpoint pen as a makeshift buzzer.
But his knowledge base comes from a lifelong love of learning. He estimates he reads several hundred books a year.
“It’s pretty simple. I just like learning things,” he said. “Every day of my life I’ve read books and learned and really liked it.”
Sy plans to become a college professor in the future. He’s currently working on his dissertation on Native American literature, and he has a particular focus on 19th Century Native American writers. He said all Americans should read the work of Zitkala-Sa, who in 1926 co-founded the National Council of American Indians in 1926.
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Rockford has had its share of “Jeopardy!” contestants in the past. The most recent before Sy was another Auburn High School graduate, Ged Trias, an architect with Larson & Darby Group who was on the show in November 2021.
For now, Sy is enjoying the positive attention he’s brought to himself and his hometown.
“It’s definitely more attention than I’ve ever had in my life, and probably more than I’ll ever have in my life,” he said. “I’m definitely taking it in.”
How to watch
“Jeopardy!” airs at 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on NBC (13 WREX). You can also go here to find your local channel.
This article is by Kevin Haas. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @KevinMHaas.