Ole Miss sophomore Londyn Lorenz has been determined to compete on Jeopardy! since she was four years old. On Wednesday, April 8th at 7:30 p.m. EST, her dream will play out on national television.
The 2020 ‘Jeopardy!’ College Championship kicked off on Monday and features 15 current university students from across the country who will compete for $100,000.
Lorenz, a 19-year-old sophomore international studies major, will face Alistair Gray from the University of California, San Diego and Kylie Weaver, a senior at Penn State in her first-round matchup.
Before the SEC West representative takes on her Big West and Big Ten foes, I took the time to play Alex Trebek and spin a few queries of my own. My questions are in bold.
First of all, I have to know the backstory. Where does the name Londyn come from?
The Saint Louis Rams won the Super Bowl the year I was born, and my dad was a season ticket holder. My parents named me after linebacker London Fletcher.
But they changed the O to a Y.
Jeopardy! is a game that you have watched with aspirations to be a part of since you were very little. Is this the first time you applied to get on?
I took the quiz for the kids tournament in 8th grade, and obviously I didn’t make it.
*brief pause with a laugh*
But honestly, I’m kind of glad I didn’t because you make more money in this tournament.
This time you were selected to compete. You’re walking through the grove in the fall and by February you’re in Los Angeles filming — can you take me through that timeline?
The college application opened in October. There’s a 50 question online test that gives you ten seconds to type in your answers, and 18,000 people took it. From there, [the Jeopardy team] selected 300 people for in-person interviews. I drove to Saint Louis in November and met with a bunch of the producers and Jimmy McGuire from the Clue Crew.
They had another 50 question exam for each interviewee, and then we had to take polaroid headshots while they graded the tests. They ran out of film on my turn, so I had an awkward pause, full of small talk. Well, the photographer ended up being the main producer who picks everybody and he was the one who called me a few weeks later to tell me I made it!
You went out to L.A. right at the beginning of the new school semester in February. Considering you are all college students, what did the filming schedule look like?
They flew me out on Saturday morning and my dad came with me. We stayed at the Culver hotel, and I used my stipend to enjoy the city a little bit when we got there. My brother came down from San Francisco on Sunday and we did some touristy things like the Santa Monica Pier. The next morning the contestants had to be at the lobby at 7:00 a.m. to head over to the studio. They shoot an entire week of episodes in one day, so we filmed the first round on Monday and then the next rounds on Tuesday.
How did you prepare for the competition? Do you work on buzzer speed? Do you go in with a strategy? Is it all trivia, trivia, trivia?
I had to touch up on presidents, the civil war and some random trivia, but mostly I was listening to podcasts and reading up on strategy. I saw somewhere that James Holzhauer played Guitar Hero to increase his buzzer speed.
I’ve been playing Guitar Hero since I was little, so I was home at Christmas break and decided to practice my dexterity. You don’t use your thumb to play, but I guess it is all about reaction speed.
I beat the game in one day.
On the day of the competition, I went into it like a big test. I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and went through my routine. Exercise, shower, proper meal... as if it was the ACT, I guess.
Were you nervous?
Well, I was voted most competitive in high school, so I was ready. But the morning of, I was looking around at all of us in our college sweatshirts, and we were all nervous.
We were awkwardly making small talk like ‘you go to Florida... you go to Princeton...’ but I joked, ‘I go to the Harvard of the South’ so...
We’ll have to tune in to find out... but if you won, what would be your first purchase?
I have been thinking about going to law school, and I love to travel. So maybe I would go to Dubai or something. I don’t really know, because my big dream was always to get on Jeopardy! and now I have, so I need to pivot to what’s next.
Is there someone within or outside of the Jeopardy! world that you grew up admiring?
I love Buzzy Cohen. Actually, he just recently followed me back on Twitter and I ran a lap around my house because I was so excited.
Beyond the Jeopardy world, I’m really into basketball. Growing up I loved Kobe Bryant, what he represented and how he carried himself. He passed away about two weeks before I went to film in Los Angeles, so it was surreal to feel his presence as I reached my dream.
And I know it’s super cliche, but I’ve always looked up to Martin Luther King Jr. As an Arabic major, I’ve always wanted to emulate him and bring freedom to those in the middle east in the same weird parallel that Dr. King did for African Americans.
If you’re eating a hot dog, what condiments do you put on it?
I’m from a German community, so I’m supposed to say sauerkraut and all of that, but I just like Ketchup. I don’t think there’s a need for anything else!
And now the most important question. Is a hot dog a sandwich?
No, it is not. It’s the same bun as a Philly Cheesesteak, but for me, the meat has to be flat to be a sandwich. A lot of my friends go off of this graphic.
I don’t totally agree because then a Big Mac is a cake, a pie is a quiche, and a hot dog might be a taco, but I think that a hot dog is a thing of it’s own. It’s the American dream!
If you had a slogan, what would it be?
“Actually, it’s a Y.”
Ole Miss makes its tournament debut this week, along with first-time participants Hendrix College in Arkansas and Virginia’s Liberty University. However, per Lorenz, her time on Jeopardy! is worth watching for reasons beyond the Rebel tie.
“All I’ll say is that the directors at our wrap party came up to me and said that they think I’m going to go viral,” she said. “You can see what I said on Wednesday, but Alex [Trebek] had to remind me that it was a family show. I just said my answer to what he asked!”
The Quarterfinals will air April 6th through April 10th. The winner of each quarterfinal match up, plus the four highest-scoring non-winners, will advance to the Semifinals. The three semifinal winners will reach the two-day Final on Thursday and Friday, with the winner taking home $100,000. He or she will also receive a berth in the Tournament of Champions.
Get your thinking caps on and try to keep up with Lorenz as she makes Ole Miss proud!