When UCF sophomore Tonie Hairston heard game show announcer Rich Fields say “Tonie Hairston, come on down!” she wasn’t dreaming.

The pending elementary education major was a winner on The Price is Right, television’s longest running game show, on May 26; her episode airs Aug. 27.

Hairston flew across the country to Culver City, Calif., and camped out at the show’s studio with her mom and sister in hopes of being selected for the show’s college day special. She waited in line for seven hours for a five-minute interview with the show’s producers.

For her mom, Lisa Herlong, waiting in line with her daughter was not the first time she had visited the show’s studio.

Three years ago, Herlong was a winner on the same show that her daughter would be.

Another family member who loved the show was her grandmother, Anna Dobbins, who died in April.

When the family had to sort through her belongings, they found The Price is Right board game. Hairston and her family played the game often, and after winning repeatedly, she was able to convince her family that she should try out for the show.

Almost 500 people were interviewed by producers to be contestants, but unless they were selected and called to the panel, they remained a member of the audience.

“They asked where I was from and what school,” Hairston said of the interview. “I just shouted U-C-F and did the arm motions.”

After being selected for the pool of contestants, she knew what to look for.

“They have these posters with your name on it that they hold up when Drew Carey calls your name,” Hairston said. “They held up a sign that said ‘Tonie Hairston,’ and I just thought, ‘that’s me, that’s me!’ ”

For the first game of the show, four contestants try to guess the price of an item. Whoever guesses the closet to the price without going over, gets to go on stage.

“A guy said ‘$500,’ so I said ‘$502,’ and that’s how I got up on stage,” Hairston said about guessing the price of her first prize, the 3-in-1 game table.

She continued on in the game and played “Lucky 7,” where contestants guess each digit of the price of an item. The item she played for was the 2010 Mazda3.

Hairston said that she had to get the last number right in order to win. She saw her sister in the crowd who said to pick the number five.

After going with her sister’s suggestion, Hairston was able to add a second prize to her list of winnings.

“Tonie’s goal was to go there and win a car,” Herlong said.

After winning the first car, she was able to spin a big wheel with two other contestants for another chance to win some prizes. She beat the other contestants, revealing a new showcase of prizes that included a second car, a laptop, a desk and chair, a $1,000 gift card for Amazon.com, and a flat-screen TV. In order to keep the prizes, she had to guess the total cost of the items without going over.

“I saw her put her head down like she was praying,” Herlong said. “She said at that moment she was thinking ‘God, if you let me win another car, I promise I will give it to Leah (her sister).’ ”

Hairston guessed $22,000, when the actual cost was about $23,000.

“I am going to give my sister a car because she just had a baby,” said Hairston.

Her sister, Leah Dobbins, said she feels good about being promised one of the cars, but that she’s equally as happy for her sister.

“I am really happy for her because I know she needs transportation to school and work,” Dobbins said.

Hairston and her family can hardly wait for the show to air because she’ll be able to claim her prizes once it does.

“I’m still in shock,” Hairston said. “I’m waiting for it to air. Then I think it will hit me.”

The Price is Right airs at 11 a.m., Monday through Friday on CBS.

Source: Central Florida Future, UCF student shines in game show appearance,  by Kerri Kell, Contributing Writer.  Published: Sunday, August 15, 2010,  Updated: Sunday, August 15, 2010