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Dunklin claims Jr. Miss

After a weekend of heavy rain, high winds and power outages that forced a postponement, The 2009 Butler County Junior Miss Scholarship Program roared into the Ritz Theatre Monday night.

Actually, the competition ended up taking two days.

“We went ahead and did the interviews in the dark and heat on Saturday,” explained BCJM chair Starla Jones. “With the weather so threatening and no power, we had to make the decision to postpone our stage program until tonight. This is a great group of girls, real troupers – and believe me, they are ready to go!”

With a biker theme revving things up, the 11 high school seniors and their “Little Sisters” kicked it into gear with an up-tempo performance to “Life is a Highway.”

The competition was intense as the young women performed on stage in the Self-Expression, Talent and Fitness categories before an audience of close to 400 family members, teachers and friends.

Ultimately, it was Elizabeth Flowers Dunklin, daughter of Jim and Tyler Dunklin, who won the Junior Miss medallion and the right to represent Butler County at the state Junior Miss Program in January 2009.

Elizabeth, a senior at Fort Dale Academy, also took top honors in the Talent, Scholastic and “Be Your Best Self” essay award categories, earning a total of $2,600 in scholarship monies. She performed “Tocatta” by Aram Khachaturian on the piano for her winning talent entry.

In an interesting twist, Elizabeth’s twin sister, Caroline Williams Dunklin, also a student at FDA, was chosen first runner-up and winner of the Self-Expression award. Caroline earned $1,250 in scholarship monies. Caroline performed a Spanish guitar instrumental, Ernesto Lecuona’s “Malaguena.”

Dancer Courtney Rice, a senior at Greenville High School, captured the Fitness award and second runner-up honors along with $750 in scholarship monies. Courtney, the daughter of Sonya and Ronald Rice, performed a lyrical self-choreographed ballet to “Man in the Mirror.”

Her fellow contestants chose Susan Nimmer, also a senior at GHS, as the “Spirit of Junior Miss” award winner. Susan, who performed “I Can Hear the Bells” from the Broadway musical, “Hairspray,” is the daughter of Michael and Susan Nimmer.

Other contestants included Kayla Lee, daughter of Mack and T.K. Lee, who performed an up-tempo dance to “Step Up;” Tabitha Nicole Newton, daughter of Gary and Kim Newton, who performed a trumpet instrumental to Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and Catherine Grace Nixon, daughter of John and Heather Nixon, who performed a comedic monologue, “Run Free!”

Also competing were Holly Elizabeth Matthews, daughter of Larry and Jo Ann Matthews, performing “The Italian Street Song” from the operetta “Naughty Marietta” and Rosemary Underwood Russell, daughter of MacDonald and Marianne Russell, who tapped to “All That Jazz” from the musical “Chicago.”

Casey Blackmon Rogers, daughter of Steve and Linda Rogers, performed Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” on piano while Candice Nicole Nichols, daughter of William and Debra Nichols, performed a comedic monologue, “It’s a Doll’s Life.”

Vocalist Madison Norrell, 2005 BCJM Talent winner and 1st runner-up provided special entertainment for the evening. Madison also performed a duet with her dad, event emcee David Norrell, on “You Raised Me Up.”

Tyler Manning, the county’s 2008 Junior Miss, performed a classic ballet number, while the event’s Little Sisters danced in their own high-energy routine for the crowd.

According to the outgoing Junior Miss, Elizabeth’s year to come will be “simply amazing.”

“This has been the most fun I have ever had in my life,” Tyler said. “I would tell any girl who is going to be a senior next year, go sign up. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”