CULVER CITY, Calif. – Some of Katie Sekelsky’s earliest childhood memories were of watching her favorite TV show, Jeopardy!
(Katie Sekelsky, right, and Jeopardy! host Mayim Bialik. Photo courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)
Even when the show came on after her bedtime as a young child, she says she would “fall asleep to the theme song.”
On Friday, a dream will officially become a reality as Sekelsky, a 2004 Warren Area High School graduate who now lives in Kent, Ohio, will be a contestant on the game show for the whole world to see. The show will air at 7:30 p.m locally on ABC.
“Honestly, those are some of my earliest childhood memories,” Sekelsky said. “It’s always been my favorite show.”
The process has been grueling, but Sekelsky has been persistent. The reality is, she’s been preparing for this moment for a long time.
“I’ve always been into trivia,” she said. “I was on academic bowl at WAHS, graduating in 2004. Around 2006, Jeopardy! started offering an online test. If you pass, you might get selected for an in-person audition. I’ve been taking the online test since 2006.
“In the early years, I was sure I was not passing it. They don’t tell you what a passing score is and whether you passed or not.”
She continued to take the online test every year and it paid off two years ago, when she got called for her an in-person audition in July 2019.
“The in-person audition, they have you take a written test,” Sekelsky said. “The second part is a mock game. Everyone goes up in groups of three and plays Jeopardy! with a projector screen and buzzers. At that point, they’re testing to make sure you’re not too nervous and you don’t get too upset when you miss something. Basically, they’re looking for the kind of things they determine make a good guest.”
After that, the waiting game begins again. But Sekelsky was confident in how she performed.
“I felt good after the audition,” she said. “They tell you you could potentially get called in the next year and a half, and if you don’t get called in that time, you can do another in-person audition.”
Sekelsky did get the call, but the timing wasn’t exactly ideal.
“So I got the call in March of 2020,” she said with a laugh.
March of 2020, of course, was when COVID-19 was just beginning to ravage the United States, shutting everything down in the process.
“So obviously, that didn’t happen right away,” she said. “I got rescheduled in February (of 2021), and that’s actually when my episode was taped.”
There were benefits to having her appearance pushed back, however.
“It gave me a lot of time to practice,” she said. “I have a flashcard app on my phone and even practiced wager strategy. It’s something not as many people talk about, going into Final Jeopardy!”
When she did get the call to come out, she had two weeks to make her final preparations.
For Sekelsky, a graphic designer, all the waiting was well worth it.
“The feeling of it, there’s not a studio audience because of COVID and they tape five episodes in a day,” she said. “It was just as amazing to get up there and hear my name announced and the music playing. It was exactly how I thought it would be.”
There was just one minor disappointment.
“It was obviously a disappointment that Alex Trebek passed away. It would have been great to get on when he was still around,” she said.
She still had a great time, however, with host Mayim Bialik, who TV fans probably know from her work on the sitcoms ‘Blossom,’ as well as ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ and most recently ‘Call Me Kat.’
Sekelsky will gather Friday with a small group of friends in Kent for a watch party. She’s even preparing a signature cocktail for the event, but the contents can’t fully be revealed because they have something to do with one of her answers.
No spoilers! Just tune in Friday to watch this Warren native take center stage on an iconic American game show.