UMSI alum returns to Jeopardy! in Tournament of Champions

Sarah McNitt with game show host alex trebek.

Update (November 10, 2014): On Thursday, November 13, Sarah McNitt squares off against two other champion Jeopardy! players, on Day Four of the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions. Her opponents are Drew Horwood of Maple Grove, MN, and Terry O'Shea, of Bridgewater, NJ. Horwood won over $138,000 in eight appearances, while O'Shea, as the 2014 College Championship Winner, earned $100,000. Sarah's own five-show winning streak ended with her winning just under $90,000. All true Blue fans will be rooting for their fellow alum on Thursday's program. For station and airtime, check local listings for Jeopardy.

Follow Sarah's 2014 Tournament of Champions journey on her Facebook page.

Update (August 28, 2014): Sarah McNitt has been invited back on Jeopardy! to compete in the quiz show’s Tournament of Champions, which will air November 10-21. The Tournament features the longest-running champions from the previous season of Jeopardy! The competition hasn’t been taped yet, so check back for an update on when McNitt will appear. Read more about McNitt’s Tournament of Champions bid from

For years UMSI grad Sarah McNitt (MSI '05) hoped to be a Jeopardy! contestant. She put it on her bucket list, she studied, she took online tests, and she even tried out for College Jeopardy! Finally in 2013, she got the chance for which she’d been waiting for over a decade.

“It was an amazing experience, because it was something I’d dreamed of for years without really believing that it would happen. It was sort of surreal and I couldn't quite believe that I'd done it even after it was all over,” Sarah said.

As she awaited the January 14, 2014 airing of her Jeopardy! appearance, Sarah ran a blog with a countdown ticker detailing her path to the popular long-running TV quiz show.

During her freshman year at Albion College, the Jeopardy! Brain Bus came to Ann Arbor to recruit students for College Jeopardy! Sarah filled out a questionnaire and took a quiz, but was not chosen to audition. Her friend Kurt Medland, however, was selected to play in the 2000 College Jeopardy! Tournament.

During her time at UMSI she met friends at lunchtime every day in the SI lounge in West Hall to watch mid-day Jeopardy! reruns.  “So I got hooked back on the show while I was at SI!”

Sarah took the Jeopardy! online test every January for several years in hopes she would follow in her friend Kurt’s footsteps. In June 2009, she was given the opportunity to audition, but she was not selected for the show. “I wasn’t too disappointed, because every audition meant a little more practice with the signaling device and a little more time spent hanging out with my fellow Jeopardy! Nerds,” she says.

After taking the test again in January 2013, she was invited to audition in Detroit on July 13, 2013. “The only problem was that I had plans that day that would be kind of hard to reschedule (getting married),” Sarah blogged. “Fortunately, Jeopardy! was flexible and offered me the option of auditioning either the day before or the day after the wedding. I decided I would be more relaxed afterwards, so I picked the 14th.”

“The morning after our wedding, Jason and I had breakfast with family then headed off to Detroit, where one of the stories I used in my audition was that I had gotten married less than 24 hours before,” Sarah blogged. “I felt good – more confident than I had in 2009, and certainly much more confident than in 1999!”

On Sept. 27, Jeopardy! staff called Sarah with the good news - she was going to appear on the show! Sarah studied with the help of her husband and rearranged her work schedule so she could watch Jeopardy! to prepare for the November 2013 taping.

Jeopardy! contestants are not allowed to talk about specific clues, responses, interview content or results until after the episode airs. “It’s not long now, but it’s been a long time since November to keep it all in!” she says. “There are so many things that I want to tell people and so many sentences that I begin, then realize I can’t finish. I look forward to everything being out in the open!”

(Update - January 22, 2014) For five exciting days, Sarah kept winning, ending up with over $89,000.  Though she was defeated on the sixth day, host Alex Trebek hinted that she might be back for the Tournament of Champions. According to a Jeopardy! press release and reported by the Ann Arbor News, she plans to use her winnings to pay down debt, take a delayed honeymoon in Ireland, and donate to philanthropic causes including the Red Cross, Be the Match, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Read Sarah's countdown blog.

Posted on January 8, 2014
Updated on January 22, 2014