Farmington woman appeared on Jeopardy!Call her a game show junkie. Farmington resident Kathyrn Wendling probably won’t mind. After all, this week’s appearance on Jeopardy! is actually her third time stepping up as a game show contestant. A social studies teacher at Burnsville High School, Wendling was among the three contestants to appear Monday as part of the Jeopardy! Teachers Tournament.
By: Michelle Leonard, The Farmington Independent
Call her a game show junkie. Farmington resident Kathyrn Wendling probably won’t mind. After all, this week’s appearance on Jeopardy! is actually her third time stepping up as a game show contestant.
A social studies teacher at Burnsville High School, Wendling was among the three contestants to appear Monday as part of the Jeopardy! Teachers Tournament.
Monday was a holiday, but that didn’t mean Wendling was home waiting to watch herself on television. She was going through a work training session that was supposed to get done at 3:30 p.m., so she wasn’t sure she’d make it home for the 4:30 p.m. airing. But since she knew how she did -- and she really doesn’t care to see herself on television -- she wasn’t too worried about it.
Wendling applied last spring to be a Jeopardy! contestant. She had to take an online test on the Jeopardy! website. The timed test had 50 questions on varying subjects. Applicants are notified whether they passed in an email from the show. After weeks of waiting, Wendling got her email in early June.
She was invited to try out for the show a few days later at an in-person audition. The audition was the same day as graduation at BHS, though, and it was taking place in Orlando, Fla. A couple calls later, she was told there would be another audition in Kansas City. The distance left her with the option of a six-hour drive or an airline ticket. She was able to find a ticket for $138, and off she flew.
“It was like, am I really going to go?,” she said. “In my head, I’m thinking this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.”
In Kansas City, Wendling had to take a written test with another 50 questions. According to the Jeopardy! website, applications are judged on the results of the written and online tests, but potential contestants also have to do a personality interview and audition. The audition is a short version of Jeopardy!
Months went by before she heard anything more from the game show. Finally, near the end of September, Wendling was asked to be a contestant on the Teachers Tournament that would air in February. It was Jan. 21 before she and her husband, Cale Coughlan, went Los Angeles, Calif., for the taping.
In a short interview on Jeopardy’s website, Wendling talked about her dream categories: reality shows and 80s hair bands. This week, she offered up her reasoning.
“I would say the majority of us were social studies teachers,” she said. “You think, what am I going to know that they’re not going to know? Reality television and 80s hair bands, that’s my thing.”
Taping for the Feb. 15-28 run of the Teachers Tournament was completed in just two days, Jan. 23-24. The regular matches were taped on the first day, the final rounds on the second.
For the most part, Wendling knew her answers. But so did the teachers she was playing against. Her hang up was the buzzer. Contestants have to wait until host Alex Trebek is done reading the whole question before hitting the buzzer.
“If you buzz too soon, you get locked out. It’s one of those timing things. I never got to be very good at it,” she said. “But honestly, I think everybody knew the answers.”
Wendling did not win her match, but in tournaments, the four contestants who earned the highest totals without winning their matches also avance to the finals. Wendling qualified for the semifinals because she earned the highest total of the teachers who did not win their matches.
Going to the semifinal meant she automatically won $10,000. Each of the teachers who participated in the tournament also received Classroom Jeopardy!, a computer version of the game that is designed as a teaching tool for school classrooms.
Game show no. 3
Appearing on Jeopary! was fun, but it wasn’t Wendling’s first appearance on a televised game show. That was back in 2001, when, dressed as Mrs. Claus, Wendling won $67,500 as a contestant on The Weakest Link. In 2005, she won $50,000 on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
It seems making game show appearances is in her blood.
“I’ve always loved game shows since I was a kid. My sisters and I used to play $100,000 Pyramid as kids. We’d turn down the volume on the television and try to answer the questions ourselves,” she said. “And I thought I wanted to do that for real someday.
“I’m so competitive. I have more board games in my garage than most people do clothing,” she said.
Wendling will admit, there’s a chance she may do more game shows in the future. It’s just a question of which ones.
“My husband wants to go on the Amazing Race. I don’t know about that one. My athletic skills aren’t as good as my intellectual skills,” she said, “but I would definitely try out again.”