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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 17, 2018

Marion resident competes on ‘Jeopardy!’ episode to air Wednesday

By Makayla Tendall, The Gazette | Feb 07, 2018

For years, Marion resident Marcy Lehman stored what she calls a mental Filofax of trivia knowledge. On Wednesday, all of America will see Lehman put those facts to use on “Jeopardy!”

Lehman is a contestant in the game show episode airing Feb. 7, on KWWL-TV, Eastern Iowa’s NBC affiliate. The episode was taped in November 2017.

As a child, Lehman watched “Jeopardy!” with her mother and grandmother. The three would compete to see who got the most answers correct, and Lehman said she often came in last.

However, Lehman said that as she grew her trivia skills did, too.

“I tend to hold on to information that would only be useful for me if I’m on the show,” she said. “I’m that kooky friend that just seems to know stuff. I’m the one people invite to trivia night and win at that.

“Otherwise, they just give you a sideways look.”

Lehman, now a senior business systems analyst at Transamerica, continued to watch the game show, collecting bits of information and using the knowledge she had accumulated. And while friends and family are impressed by her vast knowledge, she is hesitant to give too much credit to her trivia skills.

“I just have a wide-ranging knowledge, and I’m able to retain and recall a lot,” she said. “I watch the show and find myself answering questions I didn’t even know I knew the answer to and I didn’t know why I knew the answer.”

Still, appearing on “Jeopardy!” was a bucket-list item for Lehman. But she wasn’t picked as a contestant until her third time auditioning.

She previously had auditioned for a college version of Jeopardy! and then tried out as an adult.

“I’d been trying to get on the show for 15 years,” she said. “The third time’s the charm.”

To audition for the show, nearly 80,000 hopefuls fill out a 50-question general knowledge survey, put out about once a year. Show officials whittle the numbers down to 2,000 to 3,000 individuals who audition, and then about 400 contestants are chosen to compete throughout a season.

Lehman watched hundreds of episodes to prep — about two or three a night. As an avid watcher, she said she knew the categories that cycled through often — British poetry, U.S. history, opera.

“Make sure you understand ingredients in drinks even if you’re not a drinker,” Lehman added. “Know geography, bodies of water.”

But just as important are contestants’ reflexes. Lehman practiced hitting a pretend buzzer with her husband and then 14-year-old daughter in her living room.

“You live and die by the buzzer,” she said.

She also said she’d have been able to answer the football questions three contestants failed to answer on a “Jeopardy!” clip circulating on social media.

Lehman said securing a spot on the show was even more significant than just competing for prize money. Her mother recently suffered a stroke, and seeing Lehman on Wednesday’s episode is something she looks forward to.

“It was a huge deal,” Lehman said. “She’s very proud of me.”

Traveling to Burbank, Calif., last November to shoot the show also was physically exhausting for Lehman, who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia almost two years ago. Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain.

Finding a medication that will manage Lehman’s chronic pain without impacting her cognitive abilities has been a struggle.

Regardless, Lehman said she enjoyed swapping audition “war stories” with the other contestants. And meeting Alex Trebek, “Jeopardy!” host, was as much fun as she expected.

“He is so down to earth,” she said. “I was a little nervous when I found out (how) elite it feels to be one of the few who make it on, but he’s human and talks to the crowd, makes a lot of self-deprecating jokes, and we’re tittering nervously.”

Lehman isn’t able to give out any episode spoilers before it airs, but she said she hopes to be a “Jeopardy!” contestant at least one more time. Contestants aren’t allowed to be on an episode more than once every 10 years.

“I’m hoping I have all my health problems resolved and can go on the show again. I would love to be able to go on twice,” she said. “You always learn something new on Jeopardy!”

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