But Vencill bounced back during the prize puzzle portion of the game. She correctly guessed "recline and relax in the sunshine" during the round, earning her trip to Antigua and enough money to contend with the current leader.
During the following commercial break, Vencill said show coordinators realized they had tallied her score incorrectly. When they added it up again, she passed her opponent. Even though Vencill didn't answer the final puzzle correctly, it was the only correct answer the third contestant managed.
That put her in the final round. She guessed her letters - C, M, D and A - and said she thought she had figured out the first of the two words.
"I don't even think two seconds passed and I guessed it as a question," Vencill said. "And (Sajak) was like 'Yep, that's right!' "
She celebrated the win with her friends from church, Caleb and Tiffany Korth, who accompanied her to the Wheel of Fortune studios in Culver City, Calif. It was the culmination of a lifelong love affair with the show: Vencill remembers watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy with her grandparents when she was a child.
She loves the challenge of trying to solve the puzzles, and regularly plays Scrabble and the Words with Friends, a digital game similar to Scrabble. So when she heard Wheel of Fortune was auditioning potential contests this spring at Mardi Gras casino, she figured she'd give it a shot.
Vencill didn't think she had made the cut until she got an email weeks later. The message invited her back to the casino to try out again. She received a letter after the second audition letting her know she had made it to the show.
She wasn't allowed to claim any of her prizes until after the show aired. Wheel of Fortune has up to 120 days to provide the items, so she expects them sometime in March or April.
She isn't sure when she'll take her trip, but friends and students have already petitioned to join. A big fan of the Honda Accord she drives, she isn't sure what she'll do with the new car. The taxes on the prizes will probably wipe out the remaining cash prize, she said.
She still had a great time on the show though. And in her opinion, the excitement and support from the community is better than spinning the 2,400-pound wheel anyway.