Nanci Skinner of Warren, seen here with guest host Sanjay Gupta, competed on “Jeopardy!” Friday night. Photo courtesy of Jeopardy Productions Inc.

A grocery store worker from Warren fulfilled a nearly lifelong dream by competing on “Jeopardy!”

And while Nanci Skinner was not the new Jeopardy “champion” by the end of Friday’s episode, the 50-year-old took big risks and rallied from third to first before all three competitors were stumped by the final question.

Skinner said Friday morning that she’s been trying out for the famed TV quiz show since she was a teenager growing up in the Philadelphia area in the 1980s. She said she’s taken the qualifying test “dozens of times” over the years before finally getting called to be on the show this year.

Skinner works as a shipping receiver at the Shaw’s supermarket in Rockland, checking in trucks as they unload goods. She said she began watching “Jeopardy!” with her mother in the 1980s, with the late Alex Trebek as host. Trebek hosted the show from 1984 until his death in 2020, and Friday’s episode was guest-hosted by neurosurgeon and CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta.

During the episode, Skinner went big during the first “Double Jeopardy” question by wagering all of her winnings only to drop down to $0. But by the end of the first round, however, Skinner was back in the mix with her two competitors, four-time champion Courtney Shah of Portland, Oregon, and McKenzie Miller of Cinncinati.

Skinner also landed the “Double Jeopardy” question in a category on Canada during the second round. But this time, Skinner wagered half of her $6,000 and jumped into second place by correctly identifying Newfoundland as the province where Vikings established a settlement.

She climbed into the lead on the very last question of the second round of the show. But while all three contestants failed to correctly identify “Georgia on My Mind” as the subject of the Final Jeopardy clue – “Written in 1930, this song was a No. 1 hit in 1960 & was covered by The Band to support a 1976 presidential candidate” – the reigning champ won a fifth title by wagering the least.

Earlier Friday, Skinner said she’s always been a big reader and the kind of person who “knows weird trivial things” in a lot of different subjects. She said she did not cram for her “Jeopardy!” taping as some contestants do, studying subjects that come up on the show a lot, like the Bible or opera. Instead she relied on what she already knows.

Skinner is among a few Maine contestants to appear on the show this year. Jamie Logan of Augusta won more than $50,000 over three days in May and Susan McMillan of Portland won more than $35,000 on the show in March. At least three Mainers were on the show in 2020 as well.

Skinner said she’s noticed how many Mainers have been on the show in recent years, but that fact did not influence her to apply. She’s been trying to get on the show while living in various places over the years, and moved to Maine about five years ago.

“It didn’t matter where I was living, I was going to try to get on,” Skinner said.


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