Sumulong-Jeopardy

Stephanie PerDue Sumulong, right, and "Jeopardy" host Alex Trebek.

We'll take "Local Contestants" for 500, Alex.

Ashtabula County residents can tune into 'Jeopardy!' at 7 p.m. Tuesday to root for one of their own. Stephanie PerDue Sumulong, a 1996 graduate of Geneva High School, who now lives in Fort Collins, Colo., will match wits and knowledge against two other contestants on the popular ABC game show.

It has been a long haul for Sumulong to realize her dream of being a contestant on the popular quiz show. She tried out in 2007 in New York City and in 2018 in Portland, Oregon. Sumulong registered and took the online test. She had to log into the Jeopardy! website at a specific time and answer about 50 timed questions.

A few months later, she was invited to an in-person audition. She then had to take another 50-question test and play a practice game with the other 29 audition contestants.

"They keep your information and audition on file for 18 months so they can call you at any point to come out and play the game," she said. "I got my call in September."

She was invited to the West Coast for a taping of the show in October, but that didn't leave her a lot of time to study.

"I read a good number of children's books on subjects I wasn't comfortable with or needed a refresher on like Shakespeare," she said.

Sumulong went to California and stayed in a hotel in Culver City, a suburb of Los Angeles that’s about three miles from Sony Studios, where 'Jeopardy!' is taped. She was at the studio from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Contestants spent more than two hours getting instructions, filling out forms, getting primed in makeup and participating in a practice show. 

"The contestants become really friendly with each other and even exchange emails or cell numbers," she said. "The producers on the show are very upbeat and put everyone's nerves at ease. They run the production like a well-oiled machine. It's a long day of taping but it's really fun and exciting."

Once taping began, security was tight. Contestants couldn't leave their seats in the audience without a 'Jeopardy!' staff member accompanying them. Contestants were chosen randomly for each game. 'Jeopardy!' only tapes twice a week, five shows per day.

Sumulong said her strong points were in the categories of history, music (except opera), people, pop culture, government, economics, religions and sports.

For the past 18 years, Sumulong has been a teacher. She currently teaches middle school social studies at a Catholic school in Loveland, Colorado. 

She received her bachelor's degree in 2000 from Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana; and a master's in liberal arts/Native American studies in 2010 from the University of Delaware.

She and her husband, Solito, have been married for 16 years and they have a 10-year-old son, Owen. They attended the taping with her and sat in the studio audience.

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