Photo courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

Lisa Schlitt '07 with Alex Trebek, on the sets of Jeopardy!, the popular game show.

November 14, 2017

Microbiologist Cornell Alumna Returns for Daily Double on Jeopardy!’s Tournament of Champions

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After winning $139,100 over a six-day streak, Lisa Schlitt ’07 buzzed in for a second run in Jeopardy’s Tournament of Champions.

Schlitt, a CALS alumna now microbiologist from Berwin, Pennsylvania, competed for six consecutive days on the game show earlier this year in February — a streak that propelled her to this year’s tournament.

Jeopardy! airs this tournament annually for the past season’s longest-running champions and biggest money winners. Carried out over three rounds — quarterfinals, semifinals and finals — this year’s tournament brought Cornell’s Jeopardy! fame back into Alex Trebek’s studio.

Schlitt made it all the way to the semifinals round of the competition, adding $15,400 from her quarterfinals win to her total Jeopardy! earnings. However, Schlitt lost in the semifinals on Tuesday night, ending the game with $0.

Though she did not slip in iconic Cornell experiences on air like she did last time when she mentioned Introduction to Wines to Trebek, Schlitt did say that one of her Daily Double questions threw her back to her undergraduate days.

After landing on the Daily Double in the second round of the game, Schlitt said she wagered far less than she could have because she was “thrown” by the physics category.

“Admittedly I’m not a physics person, [but] the question being one that I found fairly easy. Once I saw [the question], I was kind of kicking myself,” she said.

“I didn’t want to necessarily take the risk and get nightmares, physics flashbacks. All of a sudden, I’d find myself back in Rockefeller Hall,” she added.

Schlitt found out at the end of the summer that she had qualified for the Tournament of Champions, a two-week competition of 15 contestants with a whopping $250,000 reward.

This time around, the show gave her three months notice before the taping — a nice change from the less-than-a-month warning contestants get before their first show.

Though the three months did give her much more time to prepare and brush up on her opera trivia — among the most “dreaded” categories for contestants — Schlitt said it also allowed for more time to stress.

Admittedly, the comfort of six games of Jeopardy! under her belt did not dampen the worry that came with competing against proven pros in the tournament.

Being among this group came with its new expectations too, Schlitt said, because as a seasoned pro, she did not want to betray her reputation and “look stupid.”

“The expectation kind of weighs on you just a little bit. It’s also knowing that you’re going to go up against such formidable people,” she said. “Everyone there has essentially proven themselves to be the best of the best, at least in the past couple years.”

Last round, Schlitt told The Sun that while she did not enter the game with a sophisticated plan of attack, her strategy soon became to wager everything in the Final Jeopardy round. Her rationale then was that if she did not win the game, it was not as though she would be walking away with the money.

However, the stakes were not quite as simple for the tournament. Not only do the winners of each quarterfinal game advance to semifinals, but the round also pulls the four contestants with the highest end-game totals.

Schlitt then only wagered $1,000 in the Final Jeopardy! Round to make sure she stayed at “baseline” level — around $13,000 to $15,000.

Her new strategy coming into the tournament was to “fish” the board for the Daily Doubles, ensuring that her competitors could not get to them even if she was not familiar with the category.

“Try and hover around. …The more you stay in one place, the more likely someone might be able to take control away from you,” Schlitt said describing her rationale.

Schlitt’s strategy carried her all the way to the semifinals round where jeopardy proved too slippery a slope. Though her run in the Tournament of Champions has come to an end, Schlitt’s double streak on Jeopardy! will remain a category in Cornell history.