Darien teen puts trivia knowledge to the test on Jeopardy! Teen Tournament
Updated 11:33 pm, Sunday, December 11, 2016
DARIEN — Yvette Borecki was going into work as an occupational therapist in the New York City public school system the day after her son appeared on “Jeopardy!” when she was suddenly approached by a group of co-workers.
“All of a sudden, a whole bunch of people were coming toward me,” she said. “It turns out the resource teacher was watching Jeopardy! and they say ‘Michael Borecki from Connecticut’ so she thought that must be my son [and] texted all these other teachers. By the end, everyone was watching. Even the principal was watching with her brother! It was very funny.”
Things have died down a bit since 17-year-old Michael Borecki, a senior at Darien High School, came in third on the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament, but the runner-up and trivia wiz’s appearance on the popular game show sent ripples throughout his small town. His father Ken, who works in finance, got Linkedin messages asking about him, his sisters — they are triplets — got asked about him in class and his mother got stopped everywhere from the grocery store to when she went to vote.
“I’ve gotten a lot of attention in school. My math class, we actually watched all my episodes,” Michael said. “Otherwise, a lot of people have just been stopping me in the hallways, saying congratulations, things like that.”
“It seems like everybody knows,” Yvette said. “It has been fun.”
Michael has always been known for his knack for knowledge. In fourth grade, he started participating in geography bees and later, history bees. He made it to nationals in the National Geographic Bee three times and is on the high school’s Quiz Bowl team, a team-based buzzer academic competition. He was even once introduced at a track meet as “Mr. Geography.”
“It’s kind of comical how good he is,” Ken said. “I remember the first time we went to a history bee in sixth grade and we sat there and there were six students sitting around a table and he had six before anybody had any points. He didn’t even give them a chance.”
“I think from doing Geography Bee and Quiz Bowl in middle school, a lot of middle school kids look up to him,” Michael’s sister Elizabeth added.
Michael’s pursuit for competition began when was encouraged to try out for Jeopardy! by his middle school geography bee coach. He was chosen for teen tournament after passing an online test, then taking another written test in person and auditioning in New York City. In the end, he was chosen out of 300 people who auditioned.
Aside from meeting Alex Trebek, taking home $25,000 and living a childhood dream, Michael said the high point of his Jeopardy! journey was the experience itself.
“I think just being on the show is sort of the highlight,” Michael said. “There’s really nothing quite like it. I would say definitely winning games was probably the best part. I’d rather win than lose.”
Michael said his smarts come from reading a lot of books and Wikipedia articles, as well as participating in Quiz Bowl. Many of the contestants on Jeopardy! have done Quiz Bowl in the past, including 12 out of the 15 finalists in the Teen Tournament.
“I think he likes the competition,” Yvette said. “He’s competing against other people, but he’s competing against the categories — and you’re surprising yourself. He’s good in geography, he’s a history buff. It’s like, ‘How much can I absorb?’ I think that’s what’s going through his mind.
“Some people like marathons. When you see the New York City Marathon and you see all these people running and they’re exhausted, but they’re going to finish that race, that’s sort of Michael, but just that he likes the competition of knowledge,” his mother added.