Sarah McNitt returns as a Jeopardy champion


In September, Sarah McNitt was walking through the Old Capitol Town Center when she received a phone call telling her she would be a contestant on the popular TV game show “Jeopardy.”

“It was unbelievable,” she said. “The phone rang, and I had to hurry back to my desk to take the call. It was amazing.”

McNitt, an adviser and program coordinator of University of Iowa’s Study Abroad program, had tried out for the show once before but didn’t make it past the initial audition process.

After this phone call, however, McNitt went on to win five rounds and be asked back to compete in the Tournament of Champions.

The Tournament of Champions was filmed in late September and aired Thursday, with McNitt taking second place. In total, she has made $89,398 during her “Jeopardy” career.

Those who are close to McNitt said they are not at all surprised at her success.

“She has always been very good at trivia,” said Amy Bowes, an adviser and program coordinator at the UI Study Abroad Program. “She definitely is someone who I would think would excel at ‘Jeopardy.’ ”

McNitt’s husband, Jason Sprague, said he wasn’t surprised by his wife’s success, but he had no idea the success would go as far as it did.

“We were going in with the expectation that this would be fun no matter what happens,” Sprague said. “Winning five games was kind of an added bonus on top of everything.”

McNitt said she has long been a fan of the show, because her parents watched it when she was growing up.

“It was always on in my house,” she said. “They have an online test that I’ve taken pretty much every time I’ve been able to.”

Watching “Jeopardy,” McNitt said, is the key to being successful when it comes to the actual competition.

“The best way to prepare for ‘Jeopardy’ is to watch a lot of ‘Jeopardy,’ because there are patterns,” she said. “You can cram a lot. I mean, I did a lot of studying, but I can’t point to anything that I studied that actually came up on the show.”

In addition to watching the show, McNitt said, getting a good night’s sleep and staying hydrated was important as well because contestants are expected to stand for long periods of time.

Sprague thought watching the filming live was “a lot of fun.”

Because he accompanied McNitt to all the filming, he got to experience “Jeopardy” firsthand.

“One of my favorite parts is sitting in the audience with all of the other guests of the contestants,” he said. “Everyone is really excited to be there. There’s this exciting atmosphere, and everyone’s really nice.”

Typically, the filming takes place two months before the episode airs, so McNitt said it was very strange to see herself on television after the actual event took place.

“I think the strangest thing is when I would watch the episode [when it aired], I didn’t know the answer, but I would watch myself ring in the answer [on TV], and I got the answer right,” she said.

Sprague also said it was a strange experience.

“That was the really odd thing, because we watched it together, so I was sitting next to her in person and also seeing her on TV,” Sprague said. “There were times where both of us had forgotten certain things, so it was exciting to see it all over again.”

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