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Kienholz wins $22,000 on 'Jeopardy!'

Kathryn Kienholz on "Jeopardy!"

When Park Rapids High School alum Kathryn Kienholz won a recent episode of the television quiz show "Jeopardy!" it opened up friendships new and old.

Kienholz defeated the previous "Jeopardy!" champion in the episode that aired Dec. 27, winning $22,000 after staking $9,000 on a "Final Jeopardy!" clue about geography. She then successfully identified Chile and Peru as the two South American countries with the longest Pacific coastlines.

"Chile was easy," said Kienholz. "I guessed Peru. And that was right."

Earlier in the show, she nailed a question about cryptocurrency that stumped her younger competitors. "I was quite pleased with myself to get the Bitcoin answer when the young whippersnappers didn't know it," she said. "That kind of cracked me up."

On the other hand, she was chagrined to be unable to name the song "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell, based on a clue that quoted the song's lyrics. "I love that song, and I couldn't think of it," said Kienholz. "I couldn't sing it fast enough to myself to get to the answer. Nobody got that one, as it turned out."

As a returning champion in the Dec. 28 episode, she was eliminated after guessing "Who is Tom Clancy?" for a "Final Jeopardy!" clue about an author who briefly made the "Forbes" list of billionaires before slipping off the list by making a large donation. The correct answer was "Who is J.K. Rowling?"

"I wasn't smart about my bets," said Kienholz. "That's why I didn't win. I bet way too much on the final and didn't know the answer."

People are the reason her "Jeopardy!" stint is a good memory.

"The staff there, the contestant coordinators and the crew, were so helpful and enthusiastic, and wanted to do everything they could to make it fun for all of us," said Kienholz. "That was great. Since then, I've discovered that there are Facebook groups for former 'Jeopardy!' contestants."

Among these groups, she said, is one called "Women of Jeopardy!"

"Someone from my taping day set up a group for just us," Kienholz added. "During our week, when those shows were being aired, there were a lot of comments going back and forth. That was nice. I think, probably, some of them will stay in contact with each other."

None of them live near Kienholz, who lives in Milltown, Wis. with her husband, Smokey Jensen.

Among her new group of friends are people from all over the country. Kienholz said they include residents of Connecticut, Maryland, Seattle, Wash. and San Diego, Calif.

Not all of the social media activity over her TV appearance involved her newfound friends, however.

"Oh, my God, yes!" she said. "For several days afterwards, and a little bit before, I was getting Facebook comments and messages and emails from people that I went to school with, saying, 'This is great! We loved seeing you!'"

One of those people was someone she hadn't heard from since Richard Nixon was president.

"My college roommate, that I had for one trimester in 1969, happened to see it, and she Facebook messaged me. Which was cool, because I really liked her, but we had lost touch. So, we're going to get together when she comes back from Florida in April."

Kienholz recalled that Sony Studios personnel warned her that she might hear from scammers and con artists after her appearance on the show. "But," she said, "any woman who is on Facebook or social media at all has already experienced that many times over. So, that's nothing new."

Kienholz said she may possibly be the oldest winner on "Jeopardy!" at age 69, though a 72-year-old man holds the record for winning on "Senior Jeopardy!"

She isn't sure the record is hers, however.

"The woman who had been a three- or four-day champion the week before is in my ballpark," Kienholz admitted. "She was the bassist with an all-girl rock group called The Runaways in the 1970s. So, she was 20-ish in the 70s, and so was I."

In response to her Park Rapids fans and friends, Kienholz said, "It was great fun, and it was great hearing from everyone, and I wish everyone a happy New Year."