Dayton native ‘Jeopardy!’ super champ feels content: ‘I’m very proud’

This image provided by Jeopardy Productions, Inc. shows game show champion Amy Schneider on the set of "Jeopardy!" Schneider is the first trans person to qualify for the show's Tournament of Champions. (Jeopardy Productions, Inc. via AP)

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This image provided by Jeopardy Productions, Inc. shows game show champion Amy Schneider on the set of "Jeopardy!" Schneider is the first trans person to qualify for the show's Tournament of Champions. (Jeopardy Productions, Inc. via AP)

Amy Schneider reflects on historic winning streak.

Let’s be honest. We knew Dayton native Amy Schneider’s “Jeopardy!” winning streak would come to an inevitable end, but the outcome is still bittersweet.

Captivating “Jeopardy!” die-hard fans and newbies alike, Schneider’s historic 40-game streak was the pop culture gift that kept on giving. From Nov. 17 until Jan. 26, the Chaminade-Julienne graduate who scored a 1600 on her SATs and often performed at Dayton Playhouse took America by storm. In fact, she became the first transgender contestant to qualify for the Tournament of Champions, where she will compete against the top players of the season this fall, and ultimately ranked second all-time behind fellow super champ Ken Jennings.

Winning a total of $1,382,800, Schneider, 42, recently discussed her record-breaking streak and upcoming plans as a new chapter begins.

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Q: Amy, I didn’t think we would chat again so soon but congrats on your incredible run. Has the past day been an overwhelming media whirlwind for you? Has it been too much?

A: It has been just a little bit under too much. It still hasn’t particularly sunk-in all the way just because it’s been a whirlwind especially this past week or so. I’m looking forward for things to calm down a little bit so I can take in the moment.

Q: I’m always curious about the taping timeline. So, when we first spoke in December, your journey had already ended?

A: Yes. The last two weeks of (episodes) that aired were taped in November.

Q: How does it feel to finally be caught up in time with the general public?

A: It feels good. I’m glad not to have to keep secrets anymore. (Secrecy) wears on you a little bit so I’m glad there’s no more secrets.

Q: Take us back to your final episode. What were your thoughts going into the taping?

A: I had a feeling it would be “the day” and I couldn’t explain why. Part of it was the ongoing fatigue that was adding up. I also felt I lost a little bit of an edge. It wasn’t really showing up in my scores in the last few performances, but I could feel it. I wasn’t quite as sharp. I knew there would be a good chance that it would come back to haunt me.

Q: How did you feel when Rhone Talsma accelerated momentum when he wagered a true Daily Double during Double Jeopardy!? To me, that was the emotional turning point.

A: That moment definitely mattered. You could see it on my face. Up until that point, that particular game felt pretty similar to the games I had been having, especially with the lead I had. The only way at that point I could have lost was for Rhone to find that double-up, and when he did, I knew at that point there was no way I was going to be safe in Final Jeopardy! I knew it was going to come down to Final Jeopardy!

Q: And during Final Jeopardy!, you wagered $8,000. Was it too much? Too risky?

A: In that situation, I wanted to make sure if I did get it right, I was guaranteed to win. So, that’s the amount I had to bet just in case he decided to bet everything.

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Q: Was the finality of the episode emotional?

A: My immediate reaction was that I didn’t want to stop playing “Jeopardy!” I wanted to keep playing. It was really tough in the moment, in those first few minutes as I was rallying to keep it together inside and not steal focus from Rhone. But there’s also a sense of relief – not having to fly back down to L.A. anymore and get back to a more normal life.

Q: So, your normal life means going back to Oakland as an engineering manager? Are you still at your current job?

A: I did go back to work after (my “Jeopardy!”) run. For one thing, I didn’t get my “Jeopardy!” money until yesterday (Jan. 26). But during the run, I spent money on hotels while taking time off work. I’m on TV winning $1 million but I’ve been broke in the time being. But I’m not going to rush into anything. I’m going to stay at my job for the time being. But this is an opportunity to look at what else is out there and see what other opportunities might be coming. With this money, I have sort of a cushion to take a chance on trying to make something else happen. I have that freedom.

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Q: What are some of those opportunities? When we spoke last week, you mentioned having several meetings coming up including with agents who work on scripted TV. You might also write a book as well?

A: I’m thinking of a book that (would be) a collection of essays, which feels more manageable. I’m working on a proposal for that right now. I’m also going to be a part of a panel at the Iowa Safe Schools Conference, a conference on LGBTQ youth and the education system. I’ve specifically never done a (panel) or format like that but I’m happy to give it a shot. I’m open to other requests as well.

Q: Thinking back on all of your episodes, one of the most pleasant surprises for me and others as well was discovering before every taping you were motivated by listening to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”

A: I imagine people don’t think of me as an Eminem fan particularly. And I’m not a huge fan of Eminem, I like him fine, but it was just about that specific song, that specific message, being so aligned with what I felt I needed to have my mind at.

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Q: Also looking back, do you have any regrets or are you proud overall of what you accomplished?

A: I’m definitely proud. As for regrets, I wish I would have come up with Bangladesh, that’s for sure. But for the most part, I’m happy with how it went. I feel good about how I presented myself and my community.

Q: Are you glad you brought so many people back to watching “Jeopardy!?”

A: Absolutely. It’s something I’m proud and happy about. I’ve always loved “Jeopardy!” and it had been having a rough time. So, if I was able to help it get past that it’s really wonderful.

Q: Will you continue to watch “Jeopardy!?”

A: Yes. On the day I was eliminated, they had two more tapings which I saw in the audience. It was pretty tough to see it happening and knowing I couldn’t ring in. There was definitely a lot of emotion in that moment. But I’ve been watching the show my whole life and I’m certainly not going to stop now. I’m always going to be associated with these last couple of months on “Jeopardy!” and that’s great. I think it’s a great thing to be associated with and I’m very proud of it.

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