Sehome graduate’s friends ‘knew I had it when they saw the Final Jeopardy category’

Host Alex Trebek, left, with Sehome High School alum Dana Wayne who appeared as a contestant on a “Jeopardy!” episode that debuted Feb. 19. She’s back for the show that airs Wednesday.
Host Alex Trebek, left, with Sehome High School alum Dana Wayne who appeared as a contestant on a “Jeopardy!” episode that debuted Feb. 19. She’s back for the show that airs Wednesday. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Clue: “My Classic Car,” “Master of Arms,” “Body Cam,” “We’ll Meet Again with Ann Curry,” “American Experience,” “House Hunters International” and “Jeopardy!”

Answer: What are seven national television shows that have had episodes in the past year that included people with Whatcom County ties?

Don’t worry if you didn’t get that one. It’s not likely to show up on Trivia Night at any local breweries or even on “Jeopardy!” anytime soon. Even if it did, it would surely trip up a returning champion or two.

In fact, the only returning champion likely to have a shot at coming up with that one is Sehome High School alum Dana Wayne.

Wayne, who now lives in the Los Angeles area and is the daughter of Whatcom Medic One Supervising Physician and Whatcom County Medical Program Director Dr. Marvin Wayne, appeared as a contestant on a “Jeopardy!” episode that debuted Feb. 19.

All she did on that show was win $26,401 — enough to land her in the podium on the left Wednesday when the show returns from its 10-day All-Star Games tournament at 7:30 p.m. on KOMO.

“It was one of the most fun days of my life,” Wayne told The Bellingham Herald, speaking about her experience on the game show.

Not entirely all that surprising, considering she nailed the game’s first two answers in the “Eating Verbs” category — “To alter food by the action of stomach chemicals so that it can be absorbed” (What is digest?) and “To snack continuously, the way an antelope nibbles along grasslands” (What is graze?).

Wayne didn’t stop until she correctly got the Final Jeopardy answer in the “Broadway Musicals” category — “The title of this musical that opened in 1956 is from the last line of a nursery rhyme about a structure that spanned the Thames” (What is “My Fair Lady?”) — and her wager of $12,001 kept her safely ahead of the second-place challenger.

“I’ve had a lot of people tell me they knew I had it when they saw the Final Jeopardy category,” Wayne said. “I’ve always been a musical theater nerd, and that helped everything. I was very proud to hear from Sehome drama teacher Teri Grimes after I got that one right and do that program proud.”

‘Might as well try’

Since graduating from Sehome in 1995, Wayne said she attended Northwestern University outside Chicago and moved to Southern California. She spent 13 years working at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, and is now tutoring students for the ACT and SAT college entrance exams while “creating art” using her skills in ceramics, pottery and photography.

She said she still visits family in Bellingham once or twice a year.

It was last March that a friend told Wayne that “Jeopardy!” was offering online tests and suggested she put her self-described “trivia buff” abilities to use.

“I’ve watched it off and on since I was a kid and my sister and I used to play against each other and the TV,” Wayne said. “So when my friend mentioned it, I figured I might as well try.”

She and about 85,000 people tried that online test, said Wayne, who didn’t find out how she did until she was one of about 3,000 prospective contestants granted an audition in April.

“After the April audition, they said you have to wait 18 months to take the test again if you don’t hear from them,” said Wayne, who waited until September before getting a call to be an alternate for an Oct. 31 taping.

Unfortunately, her name wasn’t called on Halloween, but showing up guaranteed that she would be called back again as a contestant.

“The other alternate ended up being a four-day champion when they got on,” Wayne said.

Returning champion

Though she had to wait until mid-January for her shot to actually compete, Wayne also proved she could go from alternate to champion.

A week’s worth of episodes are filmed in a single day, meaning one way or another, Wayne has already finished her run as returning champion. Champions are quickly rushed off stage as soon as one game ends for a quick wardrobe change — contestants are asked to bring five outfits — and to have their makeup touched up before they’re brought back out to face two new challengers.

And no, she’s not saying how far she went as champion — you’ll have to tune in to see or try to get it out of Wayne’s mother, Joan, or father, who were in the audience when the show taped.

“I’ve got a pretty good poker face when people ask,” Wayne said.

And never was that poker face better than when Wayne was actually competing.

“I have been told I looked very cool and collected,” Wayne said. “That’s pretty funny, because I felt pretty sure I was having a heart attack the whole time. It was so nerve-wracking and terrifying and exciting all at once. ... I don’t think I was ever settled.”

But winning the first two answers helped remind Wayne “that I hadn’t forgotten everything I’ve ever learned.”

And just how do you study and prepare to appear on “Jeopardy?”

“That’s probably what people asked me the most,” Wayne said. “And my response is, ‘How do you study the entire breadth of knowledge? I know there are certain subjects I was going to be good at and ones I wasn’t, like sports. How do you prepare for something you don’t know like that? You study for football and they ask you about baseball.”

Obviously, at least on the first episode, she said the categories were “in my wheelhouse.”

“I just always been a trivia buff,” she said. “I love learning and finding out interesting facts about things. I do a word cross every day, which I think helps with random knowledge.”

Recent Whatcom TV ties

Seven national TV shows have had episodes in the past year that included a person with Whatcom County ties:

“My Classic Car” debuted May 12 on Velocity featuring Bellingham’s Norm Chamberlin.

“Master of Arms” debuted Dec. 14 on Discovery featuring Blaine blacksmith Daniel Hamilton as a contestant.

“Body Cam” debuted Dec. 18 on Investigation Discovery featuring Bellingham Police officer Jeremiah Leland.

“We’ll Meet Again with Ann Curry” debuted Dec. 18 on PBS and included Dorothy Young.

“American Experience” debuted Feb. 12 on PBS and included Blaine’s Richard Blackburn.

“House Hunters International” debuted March 5 on HGTV featuring Bellingham’s Erica and Andy Baldridge and their family.

“Jeopardy” new episodes debuted Feb. 19 and March 6 (and possibly more) featuring Sehome graduate Dana Wayne as a contestant.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.