‘Jeopardy!’ Contestant Racks Up Major Winnings During Game Show Debut

by Leanne Stahulak
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In last night’s July 8 “Jeopardy!” episode, Chicagoland librarian Jen Jazwinski unseated returning champion, Nikole Villanueva. Villanueva, a direct service provider from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, defeated seven-time champion Courtney Shah in the previous episode on Wednesday, July 7.

Jazwinski finished the game with a whopping $42,001, after successfully answering the “Musical Landmarks” “Final Jeopardy!” clue. It read, “A cleft in limestone in England sheltered Reverend Augustus Toplady from a storm and inspired this popular hymn.”

Wagering $15,401 of her $26,600, Jazwinski at first wrote: “What is The Solid Rock?” But she hastily crossed it out and replaced it with “Rock of Ages” before time ran out.

Third-place winner Ellen McKeeman answered the “Final Jeopardy!” question correctly and wagered all of her $5,800 winnings except $1 on her answer, putting her at $11,599. But returning champion Villanueva wrote, “What is Amazing Grace?” After wagering $4,000, this dropped her earnings down to $12,000, just over McKeeman.

Jazwinski is fortunate that Villanueva answered incorrectly and wagered low. If Jazwinski had gotten the answer wrong, her high wager would’ve put her far below Villanueva, even when the returning champ also answered incorrectly.

But Jazwinski ended up picking the right answer and is now $42,000 richer. Fun fact: According to Vox, the average “Jeopardy!” contestant only takes home around $19,980. So Jazwinski more than doubled the average jackpot.

She still has nothing on the Hall of Famer James Holzhauer though. To this date, Holzhauer still holds the record for the highest Singe-Game Winnings at $131,127 — AND the next nine spots on the top 10 list.

‘Jeopardy’ Champ Wins Despite Facing Her Worst Category

Before coming on “Jeopardy!”, the librarian told local Chicagoland news outlet The Daily Herald which category she feared the most.

“Sports,” Jazwinski said. “I hate to be the cliché, but I was really hoping for no sports.”

Unfortunately, the contestants on last night’s show had an entire category dedicated to renowned basketball star Michael Jordan. The game featured clues about the Chicago Bulls player’s shoe deals, college career, NBA stats, and the other teams he played for. Jazwinski only won one of the five category questions.

Overall, Jazwinski was just happy to have the opportunity to achieve “a lifelong dream.”

“I’ve watched the show with my family since I was a kid and I’ve been taking the online test for years,” she told The Daily Herald. “I’ve actually auditioned twice before.”

Jazwinski landed a spot this time by studying up on “The Jeopardy! Book” and having her husband quiz her on geography.

Tonight, she’ll face off against software project manager Tom Tipps from San Diego, California, and executive assistant office manager Kathryn Derfler from Brooklyn, New York. But if all else fails, Jazwinski has a backup plan.

“We’ve been watching ‘The Chase,'” she said. “Maybe I’ll try for that.”

Outsider.com