A tale of hopes, small fortune for WOU student on ‘Wheel of Fortune’

wheel of fortune
Sara Haskell, 19, a student at Western Oregon University, participated in the College Week tapings of “Wheel of Fortune” in Portland last month. / Special to the Statesman Journal

Statesman Journal

Sara Haskell’s hopes and ambitions weren’t fully realized when she missed solving the bonus-round puzzle during the taping of her appearance on television’s “Wheel of Fortune” show last month in Portland. But they weren’t exactly dashed either.

The college coed walked away with almost $9,000 in cash and prizes, and she had what she calls the “coolest” time of her life competing in College Week on a show she’s watched since she was a “little kid.”

She’s only 19, so there should be many more moments ahead of her that will rival a “Wheel of Fortune” taping for the time of her life. But it was refreshing to see a young local woman enjoy one of the nation’s longest-running game shows (30 years), without the benefit of a smart phone, website, or battery, for that matter.

The West Salem resident, who is a freshman at Western Oregon University, was planning to celebrate her winnings at a “reveal party” Thursday night in the TV room of her dormitory, Heritage Hall. She told me that it has been difficult maintaining the confidentiality clause she signed, which required her to remain mum about her winnings until after the show aired Thursday night.

“It’s hard to keep a secret like that,” Haskell said. “Of course, my closest friends know because they came with me to the taping, but people ask questions and you try not to give hints as you tell them to watch the show to find out.”

A 2011 graduate of West Salem High School, Sara played like a pro. Wearing a WOU sweatshirt, she did her school proud buying every vowel and keeping an eye on the electronic used-letter board. On her first spin, she landed on the Million Dollar prize wedge but lost it on a subsequent spin.

She also won the game’s prize puzzle, which featured a trip for two to Barbados. She said she’s planning to take her best friend.

But she credits her family with making her a winner.

She said her mother, Anne Haskell, a third-grade teacher at Cummings Elementary School in Keizer, her dad, Willie Haskell, and sisters MaryLynn Varner and Jen Haskell, have made “Wheel of Fortune” a family activity for years. She said they always watch it together, and it’s a race to see who can solve the puzzles first; an activity that’s probably repeated in households the nation over.

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