Isanti woman wins ‘big’ on Wheel of Fortune

Sara Skochinski has been watching Wheel of Fortune for most of her life.
Her grandmother got her hooked on the show from the time she was 6,
when they would spend nearly every evening watch the show together.


Rachel Kytonen
rachel.kytonen@ecm-inc.com

Sara Skochinski has been watching Wheel of Fortune for most of her life. Her grandmother got her hooked on the show from the time she was 6, when they would spend nearly every evening watch the show together.

Skochinski, 24, of Isanti, always said Number One on her “Bucket List” would be an appearance on Wheel of Fortune. She started applying online to the show beginning when she was 12, in hopes of getting on “Teen Week.” But she never heard a response.

In late September, Skochinski learn-ed the Wheelmobile would be coming to the Grand Casinos in Hinckley and Mille Lacs. She waited in line for over four hours, with around 2,000 other people the first night at Hinckley, but never had her name randomally selected. The second night, she and her mother headed to Mille Lacs. Her mother’s name was called, but hers wasn’t. Skochinksi figured her “dream” of being on the show would have to wait. But she was wrong.

Pictured: Sara Skochinski, of Isanti, visits with Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak during her appearance on Wheel of Fortune last Wednesday, Jan. 12. She won $48,000 in cash and prizes, including a 2011 Dodge Challenger. (Photo provided by Wheel of Fortune)

A few weeks later she received an email that she had been randomally selected to audition for the show. The auditions took place at the Minneapolis Hilton. There were two groups of 70, and each group played a short, simulated game. The groups were then narrowed down, and the remaining contestants played another more intense game.

And then it was over, and Skochinksi was again left waiting. The game show representatives said four people would be selected from Minnesota for a future taping.

A few more weeks went by, and then Skochinski received the letter of a lifetime. She learned she was selected to be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune, and would need to be in Culver City, Calif. for a taping on Nov. 18.

Skochinski appeared on Wheel of Fortune last Wednesday, Jan. 12. And for those who watched it, you know Skochnski made it to the bonus round and won it with the word, “nightfall.”

Skochinksi won approximately $48,000 in cash and prizes, including a 2011 Dodge Challenger. For those who may have missed it, Skochinski’s apperance on the show can be found on YouTube.

“Being on Wheel of Fortune had been Number One on my Bucket List, and it was a dream come true,” Skochinski said this week. “It all happened so fast, but it was the best day of my life so far. I had dreamed of always being on the show, and the entire experience was so surreal. I didn’t really have a strategy going in to the game, but everything I did on the show, I did for a reason.”

Her appearance on the show

Skochinski flew out to California with her friend and mother. Airfare, travel and hotel expenses are not paid by the show, Skochinski explained.

The night before her taping on Nov. 18, Skochinski set three alarms to make sure she woke up on time, but she wasn’t sure how much sleep she got because she was so excited.

When she arrived at Sony Studios with the other contestants, the first few hours were spent going over paperwork, rules, etc. During this time, Skochinski said host Vanna White came out and greeted some of the contestants.

After that was finished, the contestants were able to move into the studio and pratice playing a game.

“The studio is much, much smaller than it appears on T.V., and the wheel is very heavy, like 2,400 pounds,” Skochinski said. “But everything is on a much smaller scale.”

Skochinski was in group three out of six in order of the taping that day, so she was able to see how things worked before her taping began.

She also had to sign a confidentialy agreement, so only her family knew how well she had done prior to the Jan. 12 viewing show.

“The 25-minute taping was the fastest 25 minutes of my life,” Skochinski said. “I was so nervous, but the entire time I was just in a zone and focused on the puzzles that I didn’t even notice the cameras or the audience. It was the single best day of my life, and absolutely a dream come true.”

And even though Skochinksi said the weather was cold and rainy while in California, she did enjoy her visit. Another hightlight for her was meeting Sylvester Stallone while sightseeing on Rodeo Drive.

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