DES MOINES, Iowa — For Emily Hackbarth it all started at her grandparents house with a love for learning and a knack for trivia.

“I’ve been watching Jeopardy for as long as I can remember,” said Hackbarth. “My grandparents on my Mom’s side are huge Jeopardy fans, so when I was a kid no matter what we were doing 3 o’clock or 3:30 we would stop everything and we go and watch Jeopardy.”

Not only did she get the passion for trivia at Grandma’s, she also got encouragement.

“As I got older, I just read a lot played like trivia, and random facts and started getting a little better,” said Hackbarth. “Actually, it was my Grandma Jan, who said you know out of all my grandchildren, I think if you tried out for Jeopardy you’d probably get on.”

Hackbarth took a qualifying test in January 2020 and didn’t hear back for a long time. In March 2021 they emailed and asked her to come in for a game and interview.

“Then I just was waiting, see you’re in the contest pool for 18 months, and my eligibility would’ve run out this month and I would’ve had to start all over again,” said Hackbarth. “I got the call in July that they wanted me to come out and here we are.”

Hackbarth came in second place on her show, and got a cash reward of $2,000. She got to visit Culver City, California with her husband and just enjoy the whole experience.

“It was surreal and exciting and it was so much fun, every step of the process,” said Hackbarth. “I just kind of went into it aiming to have fun and not really stressing about how I would do or what the next step would be it was just a lot of fun.”

Hackbarth was surprised on Monday when she learned her co-workers at Harding Middle School wanted to have a watch party for her big event. So, after the students were all dismissed the staff gathered in the auditorium along with Emily and her husband, to watch.

Afterward Hackbarth said she was pleased with how she played and the outcome. She also reflected on the years of learning all the stuff she knows for trivia games like Jeopardy.

“I always had a really good memory, I love reading, I love reading Wikipedia, just random things, I remember a lot of strange things so it turned out it was a skill, which was helpful on Jeopardy,” said Hackbarth.

Asked if she would do it again, she said, “In a heartbeat!”