A Liberty High School alumna had a brief but memorable reign on the iconic television game show “Jeopardy!”
Andrea Dragan, a former Eldersburg resident who now lives in Silver Spring, could be seen on Wednesday night’s broadcast securing winnings of over $19,000 to beat two competitors and win the trivia game.
Dragan said she was happy and surprised by her win in an interview Thursday morning, before she was allowed to discuss her second appearance on the show.
“So yes, I am the reigning ‘Jeopardy!’ champion, which is maybe one of the coolest titles I could ever imagine having,” she said. “So it was a great game. I mean, it was back and forth. It was close the entire time.”
She acquitted herself well on Thursday’s broadcast as well, racking up $10,000, but she finished second.
Going into her first appearance, Dragan said, she didn’t have a mindset that she was definitely going to win.
“I know the caliber of the contestants on ‘Jeopardy!’, they’re just all so incredibly smart. So I didn’t go in with any sense of ‘I’m definitely going to win this.’ I went in just with the hope that I would have a really good time and that I would be proud of how I did,” she said. “I didn’t want to have any regrets that ‘Oh, I got so nervous that I didn’t do well’ or I wanted to put out my best performance, and I certainly feel like I did that. So I really just wanted to have fun.”
Dragan said the highlight of her run on the show was meeting host Alex Trebek, who has publicly shared details of his ongoing battle against cancer.
“He is as wonderful, if not more so, than he appears on TV. He’s just an absolutely wonderful, genuine person and extremely funny. He’s funny on the show, but he is one of the funniest people I’ve ever engaged with in person and just such a joy to be around," she said. "Knowing what he’s going through with this pancreatic cancer and the fact that he comes out and just is such an amazing host and is so wonderful to each of the contestants — like the fact that he does that with such grace and poise and professionalism despite being in a lot of pain, I’m sure, it’s really amazing to see how wonderful he is at his job as well as as a person.”
Dragan attributed her win to her buzzer tactic as well as to help from her history classes at Liberty High.
“The buzzer really is a huge part of the game. Most people that are on the show know a majority of the answers. So if someone’s leading by a lot, it’s not necessarily because they’re absolutely 100% smarter than everyone else. They need to feel a little bit better on the buzzer because buzzer as a strategy is a real thing,” she said. “I had excellent teachers at Liberty, so the history definitely came into very good use there.”
Dragan has been a longtime “Jeopardy!” fan and trivia lover, something she got from her dad.
“He’s kind of the person who got me into trivia as a thing to begin with. Growing up, I constantly kept trying to learn from him because he would just get so many of them right,” she said. “I was always so impressed, and as I got older I started to get more of them right.”
After her big win, Dragan couldn’t share her good news until after the episode aired. As a result, she hasn’t been able to celebrate beyond a small dinner with her husband and her parents.
She was hoping to celebrate with her winnings by traveling with her husband, but won’t be able to because of closures and restrictions resulting from the global pandemic of COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus.
“I would love to travel eventually — obviously not super comfortable with what’s going on in the world right now — but I would love to be able to take some sort of big trip,” Dragan said. “My husband and I have always talked about going to Australia or going to the Galapagos. So that could be on the horizon, but we haven’t really dedicated to anything specific at this point.”
Dragan is hoping to be able to celebrate locally at a favorite bar of hers in Silver Spring, though she can’t do that either at the moment, thanks to the coronavirus.
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“All of this is just kind of on hold while we deal with the coronavirus and just hope no more people get sick and people heal up,” she said.