This guy is unreal

Jake Gaba: Photo courtesy of American Ninja Warrior on NBC

Jake Gaba: Photo courtesy of American Ninja Warrior on NBC

Jake Gaba bounces through life harvesting unimaginable amounts of joy from his various travel, educational and career opportunities.

A recent Facebook video shows Gaba floating, waving and making goofy faces aboard NASA’s zero-gravity Vomit Comet, an intermittently weightless aircraft used in astronautic studies. In the background, a fellow reduced-gravity-experiment subject appears unimpressed, which is atypical — most people give in to Gaba’s perpetual giddiness, or at least crack a smile.

Before beginning his summer internship at Microsoft, Gaba earned a spot on “America Ninja Warrior,” the popular obstacle-course competition program.

“I always loved the show. They won’t take anyone under 21, so as soon as I was old enough, I started applying,” says Gaba.

“Ninja Warrior” was filmed in Houston, in the middle of the night, says Gaba, who tackled the course at about 4 a.m. behind 85 other contestants. “I was so exhausted by the time I went on,” he says. “I placed in the top 50 and I needed to be in the top 30 to advance.”

Disappointingly, he says, his segment never aired. Had Gaba advanced to the final round, the achievement still would not have been his life’s masterwork.

That honor goes to his “Guy Dances Around China in 100 Days” video, which he made while in the country to study Mandarin. Set to Bruno Mars’ “Treasure,” it features Gaba (with 30-plus random Chinese bystanders) boogying his way across Beijing, Chengdu, Xi’An, Tibet, Yangshuo, Zhangjiajie, Shanghai, Feng Huang and Hong Kong. To date the clip boasts some 800,000 YouTube views, and 2,000 mostly positive comments. Media outlets, from “Huffington Post” and “Buzz Feed” to “New York Magazine” and “Good Morning America” showcased Gaba and his work. Even China Central Television (CCTV) took notice.

“The producers saw the video and messaged me through YouTube to ask if I was still in China.”

He was not, so CCTV flew him back to Beijing for a week. “Nothing I’ve done has come close to that,” says Gaba, who was class president his senior year at Lake Highlands High School.

Another of his videos, “Happy,” an on-campus, student-studded tour de force set to the Pharrell Williams tune of the same name has gone viral around Dartmouth College, where Gaba just started his junior year.

He’d like to try for “American Ninja Warrior” again, or maybe “Survivor.”

Reality TV is “sort of the most brilliant thing,” he muses. “They find people to act but only pay them if they win.”


Surprised by Seacrest

Leigh Guerra-Paz: Photo courtesy of Who Wants to be a Millionare on ABC

Leigh Guerra-Paz: Photo courtesy of Who Wants to be a Millionare on ABC

In 2013, Leigh Guerra-Paz, then Fredricksen, was in front of her TV, settling in for the second half of a Dallas Cowboys game, when local newscaster Mark Fein rang the doorbell of her Moss Haven home. During the locally live-broadcasted ambush, he told her she’d been selected as a contestant on a new NBC trivia show called “Million Second Quiz” with Ryan Seacrest.

“I was flown to New York that night, appeared on ‘The Today Show’ Monday morning and then was on the first-ever episode of ‘Million Second Quiz’ that night.”

According to Neilsen ratings, an estimated six-and-a-half million viewers tuned in to that premiere, which included a segment about the 1999 LHHS grad’s life.

The show ran just 11 days (a million seconds), and she didn’t make it past the first installment.

Critics at the time called the subject matter of the questions “banal,” so Guerra-Paz’ defeat in no way reflects her level of intelligence, and she says she enjoyed the experience.

“I lost, but it was super fun!”


I won On ‘Jeopardy,’ baby

Amanda Traphagan: Photo courtesy of Jeopardy!

Amanda Traphagan: Photo courtesy of Jeopardy!

Telling Alex Trebec, “I wish to make it a true Daily Double” was Amanda Traphagan’s childhood dream. It materialized in 2005, when she was just 22 years old and a law student at University of Texas. The Lake Highlands High School grad beat out an attorney from Georgia and an administrative assistant from Washington to win more than $5,000 on “Jeopardy!” She first applied for the show’s college edition as an undergrad, but didn’t make it. The second time she auditioned, she aced the written test and mock “Jeopardy!” challenge.

“I still remember the moment they called to tell me I was on,” she says. “It was a good thing I was outside, because I squealed.”

On set, she was so nervous her whole body wobbled, she says.

“I felt like I was going to fall. I wasn’t as bad mentally as I thought I would be.”

There was one question about Rosh Hashanah that she missed. It was a gimme question that she bombed.

“I am Jewish, and I knew the answer, but I accidentally said ‘Yom Kipper.’ That was embarrassing,” she recalls. “Ya know, my grandparents missed the show because of a storm, and, after that, I think it might have been for the best that they didn’t see it,” she quips.

Playing as the returning champ, she won a true Daily Double, which means she wagered all of her winnings on one question. “I was so hyped,” she says. She wound up losing that episode, but most days she feels pretty good about being a “Jeopardy!” winner at such a young age.

“I’ve found these online groups of past ‘Jeopardy!’ contestants and sometimes I get a little down on myself for only winning one time, but then I realize that in the broader world, being able to say I won on ‘Jeopardy!’ is a pretty big accomplishment.”

Traphagan, now an attorney in Austin, says her Lake Highlands education “really helped me on ‘Jeopardy!’ I went to Lake Highlands Elementary, Junior High and High School. My favorite high school teacher was David Wood. I am sure I used some nuggets from his class in preparing for the show.”