2017-10-19 / Front Page

Scarlett Sims takes out national sensation with win on Jeopardy!

Mariposa native bags $33,000 and major game show bragging rights

Scarlett Pedersen Sims is shown on television station WBIR in Knoxville after her big win on Jeopardy! Sims did many interviews after she beat Austin Rogers on the show. 
Submitted photo Scarlett Pedersen Sims is shown on television station WBIR in Knoxville after her big win on Jeopardy! Sims did many interviews after she beat Austin Rogers on the show. Submitted photo She will forever be remembered in game show lore.

Scarlett Pedersen Sims, a 2004 graduate of Mariposa County High School, is a Jeopardy! champion.

And not just any Jeopardy! champion.

Sims took down Austin Rogers, a nationwide sensation whose very different approach to the show made him a celebrity. Rogers had won 12 straight games and $411,000 in prize money.

Sims stopped his streak during the taping of Jeopardy!, which aired on Thursday, Oct. 12.

But that may not have been the most difficult part of the journey.

“It was hard,” said Sims.

Not about competing on the show, but not being able to tell anyone what she had accomplished. The show had been taped two months in advance, so Sims knew she was going to be the one who knocked Rogers off — but very few others had that knowledge.

She said people were talking about Rogers and the possibility he might have a much longer winning streak.

“I knew it wasn’t going to happen,” said Sims in a phone interview from her Oak Ridge, Tenn., home on Monday of this week. “It was very hard to keep it a secret.”

Her parents, Dawn and Romie Pedersen of Mariposa, were at the taping of the show, so they knew, as did her husband, Dr. Hunter Sims.

Eventually, said Sims, she got into contact with some other players who were at the show and talked about it with them because they knew. It was almost like therapy, she said.

Even as she was planning her Jeopardy! watch party, Sims could not tell her friends what was going to happen.

And then everyone knew.

During her win, one of the categories was about Dolly Parton, a native of Tennessee. Some in the national media felt that gave her an advantage.

“The only one I knew was where Dollywood is,” said Sims of the five questions, during which she ran the category.

She said the rest of the answers were mostly common knowledge, including “Miley Cyrus,” who she said is famous worldwide.

“I don’t really feel it gave me an advantage,” said Sims.

As the Double Jeopardy! round came to an end, it was Sims who was in the lead, an unusual position for Rogers.

The Final Jeopardy! category was “Movie History.” The answer was: A 1947 FBI study chided this holiday film’s ‘attempt to discredit bankers… a common trick used by communists.’

The answer: It’s a Wonderful Life.

“I’ve seen it once maybe 20 years ago,” said Sims. “I was not sure that was the right answer.”

Sims said she clued in on the word “holiday” and knew that movie was a Christmas classic.

“It’s always better to write something down than nothing,” said Sims. “I had to think of a Christmas movie that was around that time.”

So she wrote down “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

She had no idea if that was the right response until they revealed the question. And it was at that point she knew she had bet enough to beat Rogers.

“I knew I had won,” said Sims when the correct question was revealed.

But, said Sims, when she was in the “contestant briefing” that morning, she was told they “like poker faces. I tried to save my reaction until the camera was on.”

And she did, as the entire world watched the Mariposa native take down Rogers.

“I was so overwhelmed I had beaten him, I didn’t realize how much money I had won,” said Sims, a stay-at-home mother who hauled in $33,201 during the show.

“I really just wanted to beat Austin,” said Sims.

She told herself prior to the show, “I can beat this guy.”

And she did.

But then came the matter of the next show. Although the general public has to wait 24 hours between episodes, not the contestants.

Sims went on just after lunch. Jeopardy! tapes five shows during a day, so it meant after winning one of the most memorable games in the history of the program, she had to turn around and play again.

“It was probably 10 minutes,” said Sims.

Sims hung in the game during the first round, but fell behind in the second round. She did, however, still have an outside chance in Final Jeopardy!, but missed the question.

“I feel like I really didn’t get myself psyched up for the next one,” said Sims.

In doing some research, Sims said “almost everyone” who has taken down a “huge champion” on the show “lost their next game.”

“I think it is probably hard to win multiple games in a row normally, but when you have this huge, overwhelming accomplishment ...,” said Sims.

She also said it was a “terrible board” for her in the second game.

“I just didn’t get there first,” she said of the all-important buzzer used by the contestants.

She said during her first game, she had “lightning fast reflexes. During the second I was over thinking everything.”

She also said it was a “completely different mindset” for the second game.

Part of her, said Sims, was thinking she had taken down Rogers and “I don’t need to do anything else,” though she did want to win as many times as possible.

As for Rogers, Sims said he was “nice. He acknowledges I beat him fair and square. We’ll never know if I played him again what would happen.”

Once the show aired where Sims had taken down Rogers, her life became crazy. Because of his celebrity status, Sims became a celebrity of her own, with stories nationwide about how she knocked him off Jeopardy!

Because the show airs at different times around the country, Sims said it was actually Thursday afternoon when she began getting messages and calls — this during her personal Jeopardy! party when those in attendance didn’t know the outcome.

“I was in a crowded room and couldn’t respond,” she said.

Once the party was over, it was the following morning when things got crazy. She was on local radio and television and newspapers were calling.

But for Sims, just getting on the show was an accomplishment, something she has been trying to do for years.

“I thought it was great before anybody knew what I did,” said Sims. “I’m glad I won and I didn’t disappoint them.”


She’s had contact from some old friends in Mariposa and understands the entire County was rooting for her last week — and they were not disappointed.

Overall, Sims said the reaction has been “about 90 percent positive. I’m so glad I did it. It was delightful to achieve it.”

However, Sims did say she “didn’t anticipate some of the negative reactions.”

Because she beat a cult hero, some people were not kind to Sims.

“Some people said I should not have won the first one,” said Sims.

But, said Sims, most people have been positive.

“There are way more people who support me than there are people who don’t like me,” said Sims.

She said some Mariposa people, and many others, took to their keyboards to defend Sims on social media when people were being negative.

No matter the negative, though, there is one thing that is indisputable: Scarlett Pedersen Sims, a native of Mariposa, will always be a Jeopardy! champion.

No matter how you slice it, that’s an elite club.

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