Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Local News

November 21, 2011

This is Jeopardy!

Wheeler native's episode airs Tuesday

EFFINGHAM — Abby Drwecki had taken the online test to be a contestant on Jeopardy! before, but this time she was surprised when she got the call to audition for the television game show.

    “I didn’t think I did very well. I blanked out on a couple of questions,” the Wheeler-area native admitted of her second go-around.

    In June, Drwecki, who now lives in the Denver suburb of Arvada, auditioned for the show in Kansas City and was selected to be a contestant.

    Drwecki was scheduled to appear on an August taping of the show, but the taping was postponed after host Alex Trebek injured his ankle while chasing a robber in July.  

    Drwecki finally had her chance to be on the show in October.

    “It was kind of intimidating at first,” Drwecki said of meeting the other contestants at the Los Angeles studio where the show is taped. “Everyone is really smart.”

   Drwecki is no stranger to brainy quiz competitions. Before earning her doctorate degree in anthropology, Drwecki was a regular participant in Scholastic Bowl competitions while a student at Newton High School, having attended state and national competitions.

    Stepping into the studio felt different for Drwecki than the Jeopardy! show she grew up watching and enjoying since she was a child.

    “When you’re there, the set looks different than it does on screen,” she said.

    The behind-the-scenes mechanics of the show took some getting used to for Drwecki, starting with her height.

    The 30-year-old, who stands 5-feet, 3-inches tall, was placed on a lift behind the podium to make her appear the same height as the other contestants.

    “I was the shortest person in my round,” she said.

    The buzzer also took some getting used to — a device that isn’t necessary when she plays along at home.

    “The timing on that was a little tricky,” she said.

    Drwecki became more comfortable with the buzzer after she and the other contestants were given time to practice with it.

    Another essential component of the show Drwecki also is not familiar competing with at home is money.

    “The fact that you lose money when you get the answer wrong made me a little more cautious,” she said.

    Drwecki’s biggest distraction, though, was Trebek.

    “He’s a lot funnier in real life,” she said, adding he entertained contestants during commercial breaks with humorous stories.

    His humor was particularly challenging for her when it came time for Final Jeopardy.

    “I had to keep telling myself ‘don’t concentrate on him,’” she said of the break before the final round.

    Drwecki also battled nerves before filming began and had to draw on her years spent watching the show to get into a “zone.”

    “I pretended I was at home in front of my TV answering the questions,” she said.

    Although the show has already been taped, Drwecki is bound by a confidentiality agreement not to reveal how she did.

    That means Drwecki’s husband, Brian, and friends will find out how she did when they sit down to watch the show when it airs Tuesday. It will be a different viewing experience for Drwecki, who now teaches at a community college and is a high school substitute teacher.

    “I have a feel for what it’s like now,” she said. “It was a fun experience.”

    Cathy Thoele can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 126 or cathy.thoele@effinghamdailynews.com.

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