Londyn Lorenz will be the first University of Mississippi student to participate in the yearly Jeopardy! College Championship when her episode airs April 8. For Lorenz, this moment on the silver screen was long in the making.
Even as early as 3 and 4 years old, Londyn always wanted to be quizzed, her dad said.
“Daddy, ask me a question; Daddy, make up a test,” Kevin Lorenz said, remembering his young daughter’s constant demand. “And one day, I think I was trying to go outside to do some yard work.
“She was 4, and I had some things to do, so I said, ‘Here, watch this show; it’s called “Jeopardy!”‘ She watched ever since.”
Londyn Lorenz, a sophomore Arabic and international studies major from Perryville, Missouri, is among 15 students from across the country competing for $100,000 in this year’s Jeopardy! College Championship. She was selected from more than 18,000 online applicants and 300 in-person interviews.
Lorenz was scheduled to do her in-person interview in St. Louis last semester, the same weekend as her team’s quiz bowl competition at the University of Missouri. The interviewers said she would hear something the first week in January, so as a trip to visit her brother in San Francisco came to a close on Jan. 14, she was sure she hadn’t made the cut.
“I figured I didn’t make it,” she said. “No big deal.”
As she sat in the airport waiting for her dad to pick her up, listening to John Mayer on her headphones, a call from Culver City, California, interrupted her music.
“I thought, ‘I was just in California. Maybe it’s someone from the hotel calling to say I left something,'” she said. “But I also knew that’s where ‘Jeopardy!’ is filmed.”
She recognized the voice on the line immediately. It was Glen, one of the interviewers from her in-person interview, calling to say she would be flying back to California in a month to compete on the show.
Lorenz wasn’t worried about how she would perform, but how she would come across, because she is very competitive by nature. By the end of taping, however, all the contestants felt like lifelong friends.
“I cried on the flight home because I missed everyone.”
Lorenz knew she would do well, especially if they asked her about world geography, the Middle East, classic rock or John Mayer songs. But what she knew above all else was that she was crossing off a bucket list item.
“My dad has been in a classic rock band since it was just rock, so I felt confident about lyrics, math since I’m a calculus tutor, and the Middle East because I study it,” she said. “But I was happy just being there.
“I’ve been watching for 19 years so getting to be on there was a ‘This is not real,’ moment. I got to film promos with Alex Trebek.”
The one question she remembers upsetting her wasn’t even from her episode. She was watching the filming of another episode when she saw a picture of John Mayer appear on screen.
“The answer was something easy, like, ‘This artist is waiting on the world to change,'” she said. “I was just dying in the audience, trying to hold it in.”
While the show filmed during the first week of February, Lorenz can’t reveal how she did until her episode (or episodes) air.
Contestants who don’t advance out of the first round receive $5,000 and semifinalists receive $10,000. The three contestants who advance to the final episode of the tournament receive exponentially more money: $25,000 to the third-place finisher, $50,000 for second place and $100,000 to the first-place winner.
“I can say all the directors came up to my family afterward and said, ‘Londyn was great,’ which they probably did for everybody, but my family was freaking out,” she said.
Her dad said it was incredible to see Londyn in her element.
“She looked like she’d been there all her life,” he said “I would have been so nervous, but she looked born to be up there. I was very proud of her.”
The tournament will air April 6-17, with Londyn’s episode airing April 8, her dad’s birthday.
By JB Clark, UM Communications