ENCINITAS — Jennifer Montgomery will never forget this autumn.
In September she got married. In October she and her groom settled in Encinitas. And in November she fulfilled another dream by winning $45,200 on “Jeopardy.”
“It’s something I can cross off my bucket list,” she said smiling.
Montgomery, a 1996 graduate of Serra High School in San Diego, admits to being a lifelong fan of the show.
“I thought about competing on ‘Teen Jeopardy,’ then ‘College Jeopardy,’ but never did it,” she said. “Last January a friend told me I could take a test online. I took it, then put it out of my mind.”
In July, Montgomery was notified that she advanced to the next round of auditions. In September, nine days before her wedding, she traveled to Los Angeles for an interview and to play a mock game so she could learn how to operate the important hand signaling device.
Afterward she learned she’d be in a contestant pool for 18 months. A month later she was scheduled for tapings Nov. 3 and Nov. 4.
“That night my husband and I had dinner with friends,” she said. “I said, ‘I’ve got big news. I’m not pregnant . . . I’m on ‘Jeopardy.””
Montgomery traveled to Culver City with her family, staying at the Radisson. After drawing names from a hat, she learned she’d compete in the final of five tapings on Nov. 3. She won.
“I had a blowout afterward with my parents — and husband and sister who took turns toasting,” she said. “All night long we’d say, ‘Did this really happen?’ It was a dream come true.”
Montgomery’s run ended the fourth game, taped the second day of competition, when she lost to Ryan Chaffee, a tutor from Los Angeles.
“It was frustrating because I knew all the answers but I couldn’t ring the signaling device fast enough,” she said. “Most of the time it’s a timing issue. If you ring it too early you are locked out for quarter of a second.”
Earlier Chaffee complimented Montgomery on her knowledge of the works of author Kurt Vonnegut.
“Ryan seemed like a very cool guy,” she said. “I’ve been cheering for him.”
Montgomery is development director for KSDS – Jazz 88.3, operated by San Diego City College. She said the real excitement began after the shows aired in December.
“It was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life,” she said. “There was a great outpouring from old friends who found me on Facebook. The chancellor from the San Diego Community College District wrote me a gracious e-mail as well as the president of San Diego City College.”
She offers these tips to Jeopardy devotees interested in trying out.
“It helps to be a good reader,” she said. “Pop culture is important.”
Reviewing Shakespeare, the Bible and American presidents and vice presidents are also key.
“I knew a lot of answers because of my high school art history and English classes,” she said. “A friend told my English teacher, Jane Gabay, who was National Teacher of the Year in 1990. I want to find her.”
Montgomery plans to use a portion of her winnings for a trip. The rest will be used as a down payment on a home in Encinitas.