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TRICIA ROCHE MCKINNEY, a native of Callicoon, will be appearing on “Jeopardy”on Monday night. She’s seen with the host Alex Trebek.

Trigger Finger Is Ready – For 'Jeopardy'

By Jeanne Sager
HOLLYWOOD, CALIF. — April 13, 2007 — It’s all in the finger.
Want to get ready for “Jeopardy?”
Tricia Roche McKinney practiced. She held a ballpoint pen – which folks at the trivia show promised was the approximate size and weight of a buzzer.
She watched episode after episode. She used her thumb. She used her index finger.
“I tried to do it without feeling like a total dork,” she said with a laugh.
McKinney had just a few months to master the buzzing technique and cram her head full of knowledge.
“Until you really look at it, you don’t know how ignorant you are,” she said with a laugh. “I just have all this junk running around in my head!”
Ask the Callicoon native the capital of Dhjibouti, and she’ll tell you.
Ask who won the 1996 World Series, and you’ll get a blank stare.
“A nightmare for me I kept envisioning the board would be sports, war and obscure scientific terms!” McKinney quipped.
The daughter of Rease and Marion Roche of Callicoon, McKinney left the county in 1984 to attend Smith College.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in theater, then headed to the University of California, San Diego to earn a master’s of fine arts.
When she came home on holidays, the Roche family gathered around the television in the early evenings to watch Alex Trebek fire off queries.
McKinney said she was good – but so were her parents.
“Dad’s killer on sports,” she noted.
McKinney came back east in 1994 and has spent the past five years working for MSNBC gathering more knowledge for the “junk” pile in her brain.
Living in New Jersey these days with husband Vern and 3-year-old daughter Cassie, McKinney is a frequent visitor to her family’s homestead.
She was married in Holy Cross Church in Callicoon. Her daughter was baptized by the church’s popular priest, Father Ignatius.
When “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” was clogging the top of the Nielsen ratings, McKinney dialed her way through to the contestants’ chairs on the show.
But she couldn’t make it through the Fastest Finger Question to Regis Philbin’s hot seat.
“You had to have fast fingers, and I didn’t,” she explained.
Last year, when Jeopardy announced a rare online quiz for would-be contestants, McKinney signed up.
She was told to wait at her computer at a specific time to answer 50 questions, sent via the Web rapid-fire to her home in New Jersey.
A few days later, she learned she’d gotten through to another question round, this time face-to-face with Jeopardy officials in Manhattan.
She attended, answered her questions, and didn’t hear a word for seven months.
In November, the show called. She was told to schedule a flight to California in late January, setting aside two days for taping.
“Then I was freaking out!” McKinney explained, “cramming and studying everything.
“I was trying to study things I didn’t know – like sports, I know NOTHING about sports.”
She read books by Jeopardy contestants. She practiced with the pen.
A news writer for MSNBC, McKinney said she was worried she’d look like a an idiot on national TV.
“I was so nervous I was going to miss a question that’s so vital to work… something like, ‘who is the president of the United States?’” she said with a laugh.
In January, she dropped Cassie off with her grandparents in Callicoon and boarded a plane with Vern.
The couple made a mini-vacation out of the trip. They visited friends.
They went to a museum – one that ended up helping her out on a question on the show.
On Tuesday, McKinney reported to the set.
Five shows are taped in one day, but the contestants aren’t told when they’ll be called.
McKinney sat all day, waiting.
She watched five shows, breathing a sigh of relief when tough categories hit the board while she was still in the audience.
Adrenaline pumping, with her books taken away so she couldn’t do any last minute studying, she sat.
The next day, she got the call.
McKinney has signed a non-disclosure agreement.
She can’t say how she did or even what the “answers” were on her segment.
The show will air Monday, April 16, on local ABC channels at 7 p.m.
She will recommend the experience to anyone.
“I had a blast!” she said. “I highly recommend it.”
But if you’re going to do it, get ready.
Practice your buzzer technique, and pick a finger.

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