Cuyahoga Falls High School grad reflects on 'Jeopardy!' appearance

Says she received 'overwhelmingly positive response' from family, friends after program aired

Phil Keren
Kent Weeklies
Lauren Menke, a 2010 graduate of Cuyahoga Falls High School, was a contestant on a "Jeopardy!" program that aired Feb. 19.

A Cuyahoga Falls High School graduate said she received an "overwhelmingly positive response" from family and friends following her appearance on "Jeopardy!"

Lauren Menke, who graduated from Falls High in 2010, was a contestant on an installment of the longtime game show that aired Feb. 19.

Menke, who lives in Columbus, said she worked as a math teacher for a few years, but is now looking to work in the actuarial field. She said "Jeopardy!" airs at 7 p.m. in Columbus, but at 7:30 in the greater Cleveland area. 

As a result, Menke said she received two separate waves of congratulatory messages after the program aired.

"[My family and friends] were all so excited for me, and all thought I looked like I was having a good time and were amazed that I did not seem nervous," said Menke. "…I keep telling people that the whole experience was so surreal, and that is why I think I did not seem very nervous."

She added she felt that the lack of a studio audience allowed her to focus more on the game.

Menke finished third, but posted a score of $19,199. The first-place tally was $33,201 and the second-place score was $22,600. Menke went into the Final Jeopardy round in third place with $9,600, then answered the question correctly to earn another $9,599 for her final score. Both of her fellow competitors answered correctly, which meant Menke finished in third place and took home $1,000. 

"Having a final score of $19,199 and coming in third place shows it was a strong game for all three of us," said Menke as she reflected on her appearance. "I was proud of getting Final Jeopardy correct… as soon as I saw the question, I was sure all three of us would get it right."

The category for the Final Jeopardy question was "World Surnames" and the answer was: "In 2019, for the first time, this nation allowed for non-gendered last names with the suffix -bur."

The question correctly offered by all three contestants: "What is Iceland?"

During the game, Menke buzzed in and correctly answered questions in the "Rhyme Time" "Loads of Roads," "Pop Culture" "'Kon'Fusion," "Dr. Yes (M.D., No)" and "Movie Title Pairs" categories.

"I was not embarrassed by my performance at all," said Menke. "After the fact you always feel you could have done better, and there were definitely a few clues that I thought I maybe knew but was not confident enough to buzz in and for at least one clue I was kicking myself because I knew I had studied it but couldn’t pull the name in the moment."

In addition to being well-versed in many subjects, Menke said buzzer timing is "a huge component" of the game. She and the other contestants were often trying to buzz in at the same time.

How she got on "Jeopardy!"

When she was in high school and in college at Ohio State University, Menke competed in quiz bowl tournaments. She met her fiance, Ryan, while playing local bar trivia. 

"Trivia has always been a big part of my life," she said.

Menke said her family encouraged her to audition for "Jeopardy!" and she took the online test in February 2020.

"I don’t think I really expected anything to ever come of it," said Menke.

In September, Menke received an email to take a time-supervised test on Zoom. A few days later, she found out she'd passed and then played a mock game with other potential contestants. Pens were used to simulate buzzing in. Prospective competitors were also interviewed by producers.

"At this point, contestants are told they may wait as long as 18 months before getting called to appear on the show," said Menke.

She didn't have to wait for a year and a half: In November, a show representative called Menke to ask when she would be available to come to Los Angeles to appear on the program. A date in mid-December was confirmed.

A surprise occurred while she was on the West Coast: Menke said Ryan proposed to her the night before she went to the studio to tape the show.

"I was not expecting it at all," said Menke. "It seemed fitting to have the proposal be connected to trivia, though."

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at pkeren@thebeaconjournal.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.