Cal Poly Pomona Project Researcher Competes on 'Jeopardy'

Cal Poly Pomona Project Researcher Competes on 'Jeopardy'
“Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek and Cal Poly Pomona's Sara Boretz.

Set up your DVRs, Monday, March 24, at 7 p.m. because Cal Poly Pomona's own Sara Boretz will be taking the famous “Jeopardy” stage for a bout of intellectual prowess.

Boretz, who is prospect research coordinator for the University Advancement Division, has the insider's scoop on how to be selected as a contestant on “Jeopardy.”

“It all started with an online test that I completed in April 2006,” she says. “I had to answer 50 questions on random subjects, and it took about 15 minutes. I'm not much of a TV watcher, but I thought it'd be fun to give it a chance. The online test is what prompted me to try out as a contestant. 'Jeopardy' is a respected, classic show that I wouldn't be embarrassed to be on.”

After registering and submitting her online survey for “Jeopardy,” Boretz received a call in June 2006 to participate in a mock game and personality interview in Culver City. This automatically placed her in the contestant pool for one year.

“It was an honor to get to this stage because so few people make it this far,” Boretz says.

She then received a call in September 2007 to serve as a local Los Angeles alternate for one of the tapings. Even though Boretz was not put in front of the camera for the given episodes, she was exposed to the process of taping five episodes in one day and how the show functions behind the scenes.

Her big day as a main contestant came this past December. After getting the callback, she packed three days worth of clothes and drove to Los Angeles for a day of filming.

“Before the taping began, all of the participants had to get their makeup done,” she says. “It was a funny experience for the men. One of them was bald and he had to get his head powdered to take away the shine.”

Boretz and the other participants received guidancefrom the show's contestant coordinators, who shared game strategies, rules, helped reduce nerves and shared entertaining stories of prior contestants and famous participants.

“I was excited and nervous, and the coordinators did a great job of keeping us focused,” Boretz says. “The taping had given me a good feeling of being prepared for this day. Once we started filming, the whole process went by really fast and it was very intense.”

Although the contestants mingled with each other and the coordinators more than with the host of the “Jeopardy,” Boretz got a good impression of Alex Trebek.

“He was a true gentleman – very nice, respectful, and funny,” she says. “His positive vibe urged us on even when we weren't doing well.”

“Jeopardy” takes many steps to ensure fairness and accuracy.

“There were judges who are trained to work through any discrepancies, and the contestants are semi-segregated to make sure no outside factors influence our performances,” Boretz says.

Those who are curious to see how Boretz stacks up on national television, tune in to ABC on March 24 at 7 p.m.

“I will say that there is a certain amount of luck involved, aside from a person's skill and knowledge,” she says. “I am excited to finally have gotten the chance to do something that my teenage daughters think is cool. We can't wait to watch the show.”