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Vermilion man to appear on 'Jeopardy!'

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    Tim Aten, right, a 2000 Vermilion High School graduate, poses with "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek. Aten will appear on the show tonight.



VERMILION — If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

And that’s just what Tim Aten, a 2000 Vermilion High School grad, did when it came to auditioning for TV’s long-running “Jeopardy!” game show.

Aten, 34, who has degrees in psychology and sociology from Case Western Reserve University, will appear on the show 7:30 tonight on WOIO-TV Channel 19.

Aten first tried out to be a contestant a few years ago during a regional audition for the popular game show during which three contestants test their knowledge across a range of categories and topics.

The audition was held in conjunction with the program switching stations in the Cleveland market from WEWS-TV Channel 5 to WOIO.

“I did not get called back,” Aten said. “I was not very animated.”

He was more outgoing during a second successful audition in Las Vegas that he attended after moving to Seattle in 2013 for a job as editor of research and development for the collectible card game “Magic the Gathering.”

“It was a fun job,” said Aten, who has since moved back to the Vermilion area and is between jobs.

“I’m figuring out where to go next,” he said by phone Thursday.

The audition process each time included online tests followed by area auditions at which prospective contestants take another test and engage in a brief practice game to get used to buzzers and a sense of the environment they would encounter on the “Jeopardy!” set.

“They ask you to tell a bit about yourself, but that’s basically all they have to go on (in choosing on-air contestants),” Aten said.

“A lot of it is the test scores, and being able to (demonstrate) that you can play the game on TV,” Aten said.

Contestants are contractually prevented from discussing specifics of their appearance on the game show, including on how many episodes they appear, how much money they won, or even when appearances were taped.

Aten did disclose that he was hoping to get a current music category.

And he memorized all world capitals to be ready should that category come up.

“I was hoping to see a category on that,” Aten said.

Overall, he didn’t undertake a great amount of study beforehand.

“They can ask you anything, and you basically have to know it already,” Aten said.

Asked if the on-air experience was daunting, Aten said, “It was more stressful because you’re more focused. There are so many things to think about in the moment.”

One critical skill is being able to quickly anticipate the remainder of an answer read by host Alex Trebek before he finishes reading it, as well as the correct response, Aten said.

“The big thing that messes with your mind is being able to buzz in at the exact right time,” Aten said. “You can psych yourself out over that.”

Aten’s appearance on “Jeopardy!” isn’t the first time he’s been in the limelight.

As a seventh-grader at Vermilion Middle School, he won the Chronicle-Telegram North District Spelling Bee in 1995.

“I remember the trophy … it was huge,” he said.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or

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