Northwestern student Sabrina Fritz with Jeopardy! host Alex Trebeck.
EVANSTON, Ill. --- For 15 years, Sabrina Fritz had been preparing for her 15 minutes of “Jeopardy!” fame. On Wednesday at 3:30 p.m., surrounded by her friends at Northwestern University’s Norris University Center, the fifth-year biomedical engineering senior will be able to see her dream come true. That's when she'll be appearing on the famous quiz show.
“I was one of those kids who didn’t go outside much,” Fritz said. “I read all the time, and I loved fun facts and trivia.”
From the age of six, she would watch “Jeopardy!” every time she visited her grandma, who kept a handheld Hasbro “Jeopardy!” game around just for Fritz. In high school, she competed in numerous quiz bowl games and even played on Team Missouri at the National All-Star Academic Tournament her senior year.
As a joke in 2014, she convinced a few Ultimate Frisbee friends to take an online “Jeopardy!” test with her.
“We knew thousands and thousands would take it, but it was free, so we took it and promptly forget about it,” Fritz said with a laugh.
After another attempt in January 2015, her world changed.
“That was the time I struck gold,” she said, explaining that she received an e-mail invitation to attend an audition round with 40 other contestants in Kansas City.
“It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had,” Fritz said of the audition, which consisted of a 50-question written test and some mock “Jeopardy!” rounds in groups of three, followed by short interviews to make sure the contestants were “sociable and TV-ready.”
She passed the test and filmed her episode of “Jeopardy!” on Feb. 23 in Los Angeles, decked out in some “ridiculous red jeans” and a navy blue button-down shirt. Her parents, childhood friend and a former quiz bowl teammate watched from the audience.
Since geography is admittedly Fritz’s worst subject, she prepared by taking countless tests on maps and “would see bodies of water in my sleep,” she said. Her housemates in the Frisbee house even borrowed a “Jeopardy!” buzzer game from Northwestern to help her practice.
Still, Fritz was nervous to go on national TV. She said she used the walk from the pre-show makeup touch-up until she got behind the podium to calm down, take a breath and enjoy the moment.
"As soon as I got on stage and the lights came on, all the nerves went away,” Fritz said. “I had a lifetime of buzzer practice at that point, so I just needed to trust how I had been preparing my entire life for this and trust that that had been enough. It was indescribable.”
So, who is Alex Trebek?
“He has this very cool, super dry sense of humor,” Fritz said of “Jeopardy’s” host, who would chat with the contestants during commercial breaks. “You can tell if he were to go on the show, he would be incredible. He’s a very smart dude.”
After the taping, Fritz and her dad stayed in LA, then hit up Las Vegas for the weekend, and headed to Europe for a family vacation the following week.
“The last month of my life has been a little crazy,” Fritz said. “I’m still tired.”
She will soon head back home to St. Charles, Mo., where her days in quiz bowl competitions began, for her five-year high school reunion. She’ll be able to come full circle while rehashing her “Jeopardy!” experience with old teammates.
“I’m just really grateful for all the support I’ve gotten from my family and friends,” Fritz said. “Everyone here’s gotten really hyped about it. I think it’s going to be so cool to see myself on TV, and I’m really excited for the Northwestern party.”