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updated: 6/2/2014 8:25 PM

Illinois woman's 'Jeopardy!' winning streak is over

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  • Julia Collins of Wilmette won 20 straight games on "Jeopardy!"

      Julia Collins of Wilmette won 20 straight games on "Jeopardy!"
    Associated Press

  • Alex Trebek, left, host of the TV show "Jeopardy!," poses with contestant Brian Loughnane, an investment operations manager from Scituate, Mass., who ended Julia Collins' 20-game winning streak.

      Alex Trebek, left, host of the TV show "Jeopardy!," poses with contestant Brian Loughnane, an investment operations manager from Scituate, Mass., who ended Julia Collins' 20-game winning streak.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- The reign of the winningest female contestant in "Jeopardy!" history has come to an end.

Julia Collins, 31, lost during her 21st appearance on the pre-taped episode that aired Monday. The Wilmette resident accumulated a total of $428,100 during her 20 victories on the syndicated series.

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Collins was vanquished by Brian Loughnane, an investment operations manager from Scituate, Massachusetts. Collins went into the final-question showdown in second place, bet everything and lost it. Loughnane won $22,000.

The clue that stumped her: The New England writer who in 1999 became the last person to win an Oscar for adapting his own novel as a screenplay. She failed to answer with the correct question: Who is John Irving? The novel and film was "Cider House Rules."

Monday's game overall "just didn't go my way," Collins said in a phone interview, adding, "I couldn't have loved being on the show more."

Collins said she was glad her record might serve as an example of female achievement.

"If it helps dispel the idea that women aren't as good 'Jeopardy!' players as men, that would be great," she said. "It's good to see women being applauded for being smart."

Her winnings helped finance a dream trip to Paris, where she rented an apartment for a month. Some may fund future travel adventures, Collins said.

The management consultant, who's been enjoying a hiatus thanks to "Jeopardy!", said she plans to get back into the work world.

The previous top female player for consecutive wins was Stephanie Jass, who took seven games in a row in season 29. Collins displaced her and Larissa Kelly, who was No. 1 in total winnings with $222,597.

Collins holds the No. 2 spot for most consecutive wins behind all-time "Jeopardy!" champ Ken Jennings. He won 74 straight games in season 21 for a total prize of $2.5 million.

She is the third-highest money winner for non-tournament play on "Jeopardy!" behind Jennings and Dave Madden, who won $430,400.

Future "Jeopardy!" contestants might want to consider her advice: Practice your buzzer technique so you can beat out your usually-knowledgeable competitors, and restrain yourself from guessing at answers.

And stay calm.

"I was more relaxed than I thought I would be" when she first played, Collins said. "I thought I was going to have a little 'deer in the headlights' experience. ... I tried not to put too much pressure on myself, not worrying about things I don't know. "

Collins will be back for the "Jeopardy!" tournament of champions next season.

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