Portland kvells over Jeopardy wins

PHOTO: Jeopardy Host Ken Jennings with Portlander Mira Hayward, 27, who won $37,000 on Jeopardy Feb. 9 and 10. Mira says Jennings is so sharp, quick and witty. “You know he knew all the answers.” He had the audience laughing as he talked with them during commercial breaks, she adds.

Two-day Jeopardy winner Mira Hayward says she was “very nervous” preparing to compete on Jeopardy but “weirdly,” once she started to play, she grew calmer.
“I didn’t expect how fun it would be to play – that helped distract from the nervousness a bit,” she says, adding that before the game she met her first-day opponents Scott and Dan, who were both so nice and fun. “So it felt like doing trivia with your friends.”
It also helped that “the show’s producers are so friendly and kind,” she says. “They do such a good job preparing you.”
Her boyfriend, Thomas, also helped her get ready. He encouraged her to take the anytime test. After she took a second test on Zoom and competed in a mock game online, he read Jeopardy questions to her while she stood in the living room clicking a spring-loaded toilet paper holder, which she had read was the closest thing to the actual Jeopardy clicker. 
She also watched games and spent a lot of time exploring the Jeopardy archives in the two weeks between her invitation and the taping. 
Thomas and her two siblings joined her for the tapings in California. 
Mira and her mother, Oregon State Senator Elizabeth Steiner, are members of Congregation Neveh Shalom. Mira was a junior in high school when her mom was first elected. 
While she doesn’t think the exposure to politics gave her an edge on any Jeopardy questions, she says her mom pushed civic involvement and awareness of current events and that was helpful.
At Harvard, she earned a degree in history taking classes in everything from the Byzantine empire to Japanese history. She wrote her thesis on Reconstruction in post-Civil War Mississippi.
Now she works as a writer for Noble Blood, a history podcast about the royals. That helped her in Final Jeopardy in her second game. The answer “Until 1806, some German nobles included among their honors the title of Elector for their role in selecting this Personage.” She correctly responded, “Who was the Holy Roman Emperor.” Only weeks before, she had written an episode about Charlemagne who was elected Holy Roman Emperor. 
Mira worked for a Chicago nonprofit until everything closed down when the pandemic began. 
“I thought it would be nice to be close to my family,” she says. “Once I got here, I remembered how much I loved Portland and ended up staying permanently.”
In a Zoom interview the day after fellow Catlin Gabel graduate Avi Gupta won his game on the High School Reunion tournament, she commented on the success of Portlanders on Jeopardy in February. Portlander Matthew Marcus won four games, losing the day before Mira made her first appearance. 


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