After 15 years of trying, Minneapolis meteorologist finally competes on ‘Jeopardy’ episode airing Monday

After spending nearly half of his life applying to compete on “Jeopardy,” Eric Ahasic had finally made the cut. It was the morning of April 19 and he was sitting backstage at the game show’s set in Culver City, Calif., feeling more nervous than he’d ever been before. The show tapes five episodes a day and he had one wish.

“I remember thinking, ‘Just don’t let me be first. Let me watch a game or two and get comfortable,’ ” said the 32-year-old Ahasic, a meteorologist at the Chanhassen office of the National Weather Service since 2015. “And then I found out I was on the first show and it was, like, ‘Oh man, here we go.’ ”

Ahasic’s episode will air at 4:30 p.m. Monday on KARE 11. And he’s eager to relive the experience.

“I don’t remember much of that episode, to be honest, so it’ll be fun to watch,” he said. “During Final Jeopardy where you write down your wager, my hand was shaking. I hope it doesn’t look too obvious on TV.”

An Illinois native, Ahasic grew up loving trivia, whether he was playing at his grandmother’s house or competing in quiz bowl in high school. He fell hard for “Jeopardy” in 2004, during Ken Jennings’ record-breaking streak of 74 consecutive wins.

“That was right when I was starting high school,” he said. “I could answer some of the questions and thought I’d apply. I’ve been trying out since 2006. For the teen tournament, then the college tournament, then the regular show. It’s been a long process.”

Would-be contestants can apply once a year, starting with an online test. If you pass it, you take a second test that used to be held in person, but since the start of the pandemic, takes place in a zoom call. If you pass that, then you get an audition.

“After that, they say ‘we’ll call you,’ ” he said. “I’d made it to that stage three or four times, but never got that last call.”

In March 2021, he took the test for the 15th time, auditioned in July and finally got that call, back in March of this year.

How did he prepare for the show? “I hear people say there’s no way to study for ‘Jeopardy,’ but I feel there is. The best way is to watch it every day. They tend to ask the same kinds of questions and you get an idea of what they ask,” he said.

Ahasic also spent much of the winter reading Wikipedia and exploring a fan website that offers a searchable archive of every episode of the show’s history. “You don’t have to know everything,” he said. “You just have to know a little bit about everything.”

Producers don’t provide transportation or lodging but expect contestants to be available Monday for a COVID test and to be on set Tuesday and Wednesday.

Ahasic decided to make it a weeklong visit and spent the rest of his trip enjoying the California sun. But on the day of his taping, he found himself in a cold sweat.

“It’s a very high-stress environment, but the best part of the experience was that the staff is so good at what they do,” Ahasic said. “Everyone involved — the contestant coordinators, the cameramen, the host — help calm things down so we can have fun with it.”

As nervous as he was, Ahasic did get a quick rehearsal with a mock round of the game.

“When they said my name and I answered, it was a little calming,” he said. “OK, I can do this. I’m not totally going to choke.”

With that, the show began and zipped by at lightning speed.

“I had to just ride the wave,” he said. “Your brain doesn’t work the same way up there as it does when you’re at home, yelling answers at the screen. But it was such a fun, once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s going to be so much fun to watch it and relive some of the finer details because it went by in such a blur.”

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