Last month, Victor Central School Class of 1999 graduate Megan Rafferty-Barnes took the ultimate trivia test when she became a contestant on the popular television game show, Jeopardy! The stay-at-home mother faced off  against doctors, lawyers and engineers, often coming from behind in the last minutes of the game and pulling ahead in Double Jeopardy. She won three games for a total of $105,203 — not bad for a day’s work.

Last month, Victor Central School Class of 1999 graduate Megan Rafferty-Barnes took the ultimate trivia test when she became a contestant on the popular television game show, Jeopardy! The stay-at-home mother faced off  against doctors, lawyers and engineers, often coming from behind in the last minutes of the game and pulling ahead in Double Jeopardy. She won three games for a total of $105,203 — not bad for a day’s work.

“This is actually the second game show she was on,” said her dad, Farmington resident Thom Rafferty. “She was on ‘Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?’ in 2008 and she won $16,000 on that. She tries out for a lot of shows, but of course Jeopardy has a lot more prestige than ‘Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?’”

The oldest of six children, Rafferty-Barnes made her appetite for knowledge clear at an early age.
“When she was a child she would stay up all night reading and then she would fall asleep at school,” remembered Rafferty. “So to stop her from reading all night long we took the light bulbs out of her room. Then we discovered her under her covers with a flashlight — reading.”

Recently Rafferty-Barnes shared her experience with the Victor Post.

Who or what inspired you to audition?

When I was working at the Finger Lakes Racetrack and Casino, we would always watch Jeopardy! on our breaks. My coworkers thought I could do well on the show and encouraged me to try out. I loved playing on Masterminds when I was at Victor (High School), and this was a new challenge. I took the online test, got an audition, then got the call to be on the show.

What was the most exciting part of your experience?

It was such an adrenaline rush to be on the show. The most exciting part was going into the studio for the first time and seeing the set. I had watched it at home for so many years, and now I was going to be one of the little people in my TV set!

What surprised you most about it?

Everything goes by so quickly. They tape five shows a day, so as soon as I won my first game, they hustled me back to the green room to change outfits and go out and do it again.

How did you prepare?

I watched the show every day, and studied up on some subjects that come up frequently. I watched the show standing up behind a makeshift podium to replicate what I would have to do in the studio. I would use a pen to click in and practice my buzzing. For most clues where everyone knows the answer, its a matter of who rings in first. The most important thing I learned when I practiced at home was not to guess wildly. It really hurts your score if you guess wrong on a $2,000 clue and your competitor gets it right.

What was your most challenging category?

I had the most trouble with the “Mixed Greens” category.  It’s much easier at home to deal with scrambled words than it was in the studio.

What was your easiest category?

My easiest category was “All Gods’ Children.”  I minored in classics at Kenyon College and mythology was my favorite subject. Literature was also a strength.

What was Alex Trebek like?

Alex was really nice. During each commercial break he would go out and take questions from the audience. He said he loved the “Saturday Night Live” parodies of him. We weren’t allowed to talk to him much because he knew the answers and they have to make sure there’s no appearance of impropriety. But it’s easy to see that he loves his job.

How much did you win and what will you do with the money?

I won $105,203 total — $103,203 for winning three games and $2,000 for coming in second in my forth game.  I won’t receive the check until 120 days after my shows aired, and I have to pay taxes on it, but I should still have between 50 and 60 percent to spend.  My husband and I just got new computers, we’re going on a nice vacation this summer, and we have a nice down payment for a house now.

What’s the next challenge you want to tackle?

I’ve started playing pub trivia with some friends, and I want to get better at Scrabble. My brother Liam always beats me, and I don’t think that’s fair because he’s a mathematician and I’m the one with the large vocabulary! So I have to work on memorizing some word lists and my anagramming skills.

In my personal life, I have an almost two-year-old, Brendan, and we’re expecting another baby in the fall.  So I’m going to be tackling the challenge of raising them. Raising children is much harder than answering trivia questions, that’s for sure.

Do you have any advice for others about taking a chance and chasing a dream?

Don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself!  I have friends who are so smart but say they would never go on Jeopardy! because they’re afraid of messing up on national television.  When I went there, I told myself that 75 percent of all Jeopardy contestants lose in their first game, so I might as well just try my best and have fun.  And I ended up beating a five-day champion and winning three games!