While she would have loved her “Jeopardy!” run to last longer, Whitman Professor and one-game “Jeopardy!” champion Johanna Stoberock said the experience was a memorable one.

She said she has been a fan of the show for longer than she can remember, adding that she began watching the program more regularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At some point, she chose to try to get on the show.

“I just kind of decided on a whim,” she said. “I watch it every night.”

She said her experience surpassed her high expectations.

“I didn’t know how fun it was going to be,” Stoberock said. “I thought it would be challenging; I thought it was going to be exciting. But I just didn’t know how fun.”

Disappointing end

Stoberock took her loss in her second game hard.

When talking with the U-B a day after her defeat aired Wednesday, April 26, her focus was very much on her loss and not on her April 25 victory in a competitive match that saw her outlast returning champion Dillon Hupp.

When asked what it was like watching herself on "Jeopardy!" Stoberock went straight to the loss.

“Watching it (Wednesday) had me kind of wondering what I was thinking,” she said.

Despite exiting the "Jeopardy!" stage after just two games, Stoberock played well in both of her appearances. In fact, she entered both Final Jeopardy! rounds in first place.

The Final Jeopardy! categories she faced were very similar: TV history in her first game and Hollywood history in her second.

“I know nothing about Hollywood history,” she said.

She wasn’t the only contestant who struggled. The Final Jeopardy! clues were so obscure that all three players gave incorrect responses both games.

Stoberock, who finished in second place in her second game, won a total of $8,999.

Testing, auditioning

Stoberock’s journey to the stage started when she decided to test for the show. Her initial test went well but was not without its own drama.

“I had some free time, so I said, ‘Why don’t I just take this test, it will be fun,’” she said. “But you don’t know how you did on it.”

Hopeful contestants aren’t given their test results and only later find out whether they made it to the next round.

Or at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.

“I took (the test) and forgot about it. Then I went on vacation,” she said. “When I came back, there was an email in my junk mail from a couple weeks before inviting me to take the second test. But I missed the dates.”

The story didn’t end there, however.

“I took a chance and sent an email asking if I could do it again, and they let me,” she said.

After another wait-and-see period after the second test, she got an invitation for an audition via Zoom.

When she was finally informed that she was going to be on the show, she had to decline. Producers wanted her to tape in December 2022.

This was right near the end of a semester at Whitman College. She said she couldn’t do that to her students.

“I couldn’t cancel class during that time, so I had to say no,” she said. But they promised me they would find a spot during the season for me.”

Taking the stage

Though hosts Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik will mention the correct day of the week on the show, producing the illusion that they are filming on that day, the show actually films an entire week of shows in a single day.

The host and returning champion change outfits between each game so it seems like a day has passed.

Stoberock arrived in Los Angeles on a Monday. Her shows both taped that Wednesday.

She was to compete in the second game of the day, or the “Tuesday” game. She got to watch the live taping of the “Monday” game from the “Wheel of Fortune” set.

She said when it was finally her turn to play, everything flew by so fast.

“It happens really, really fast in the studio,” Stoberock said. “It shows on TV for half an hour, but the actual taping time is 19 to 20 minutes. It just is a huge blur.”

Stoberock said another highlight was meeting Jennings.

“He’s even nicer in person,” she said.

Buzzer issues

Like prior Walla Walla "Jeopardy!" champion David Sibley, Stoberock said she learned quickly the game is as much about being fast on the buzzer as it is about knowing things.

“I think (the buzzer) is everything,” she said. “I mean, you have to know a lot … but I think there were a lot of questions we all knew, and it was just about the buzzer timing.”

Buzzing in too early will get you locked out from being able to buzz for a short time. She said she thinks she was doing this in the practice rounds but got help.

“(During the practice rounds), there is a producer who is watching and can tell what the problem is,” she said. “And so, they come and consult with you. They say, ‘This is what you’re doing, and this is the adjustment we think you should make.’”

Mentioning her book

Stoberock, who teaches creative writing at Whitman College, also is a fiction writer. And because of her "Jeopardy!" appearance, she got to tell Jennings about her first novel, “Pigs,” on national TV.

She told the U-B that “Pigs” began as a short story she wrote in 2013.

“About a year later, I was still thinking about it,” she said. “I went back to it and said, ‘This is the start of a novel.’”

Stoberock currently is working on her second novel.

While Stoberock's initial run is over, she is expected to make a return later this year.

"Jeopardy!" producers recently announced all champions from this season who do not make the Tournament of Champions will be invited back for one last chance to clinch a spot in the tournament.

Jeremy Burnham can be reached at jeremyburnham@wwub.com or 509-526-8321.


Jeremy covers courts, public safety and education for the Union-Bulletin. He graduated from Eastern Washington University in 2019 with a degree in journalism. He pursued a career in journalism in his 30s because he feels real, dependable news is important now more than ever. He aims to shine a light on both the good and bad that happens in the Valley. He is a big fan of all the EWU sports teams. Jeremy grew up in California but has lived in eastern Washington since 2001. When he’s not working, Jeremy loves spending time with his wife, Hanna, and their Goldendoodle, Nala. Follow Jeremy on Twitter @ub_jeremy.  

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