JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – After three nights of intense competition, Johnstown native Dane Reighard didn’t move forward on “Jeopardy!” but he’s thrilled to have appeared on the national TV quiz show.
“It’s literally a dream come true,” he said.
Reighard first appeared on Monday’s episode and advanced to Tuesday’s, where he won again, before losing to fellow contestant Andrew He on Wednesday.
The defeat didn’t matter to the former Southmont resident. Reighard said that competing was the most fun he’s ever had and that winning those two nights was just a reason to keep playing the game that he’s enjoyed since childhood.
Growing up, he and his family used to watch the show religiously.
“My family always had it on after dinner,” Reighard said.
Appearing on “Jeopardy!” has been something he’s wanted to do for a long time, so about five years ago, after moving to Los Angeles for graduate school, he decided to take the online test. Anyone can visit www.jeopardy.com and complete the examination once per year for a chance to be on the show.
Reighard said he took the test a total of four times before he got his first callback and had an interview, but ultimately wasn’t chosen then. This year, he took it again and made it through the entire process.
“That was just mind-blowing,” he said.
The 2006 Bishop McCort High School graduate received roughly two weeks’ notice that he’d been picked and spent those days after work studying online as much as he could. Reighard said he focused on what he perceived to be his weak points, such as early American history and British monarchs.
Despite not knowing what he’d be quizzed on and having no formal preparation, he still enjoyed himself. His favorite category was famous movies because he’s a film lover – he double-majored in Russian and film at Notre Dame.
Reighard also enjoyed the palindromes section and said he wanted to answer questions on famous Russians, but was repeatedly beat to the buzzer.
His favorite night of competition was Wednesday because it was the most challenging.
Reighard said going neck-and-neck with He was a lot of fun and he was only defeated by a few dollars.
“It’s super-close and really exciting,” he said. “If I have to go out, it’s the best way to do it.”
Another benefit of appearing on “Jeopardy” has been the chance to reconnect with old friends, teachers and others.
Reighard said his mother, Deb, has been his biggest cheerleader this entire time, and when she posted on Facebook about his appearance, a lot of people reached out to him. More did so after the first night of competition.
“Johnstown’s been super, super supportive and it’s been really, really awesome,” Reighard said.
He added that although he wasn’t able to say on TV that he was originally from Johnstown, “it feels really good to have that whole community behind me.”
His mother’s been excited about the situation as well. She described watching her son on TV as a surreal experience that went by too quickly.
“He amazes me,” Deb Reighard said. “I recorded it and I’m going to go watch it again and again.”
Although Dane didn’t make it past his third night, his mom is still impressed by his performance.
“He did an excellent job – beyond what I could do,” she said. “You have to have a combination of so many skills just to do that. I’m very proud of him.”