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By DANELLE LANDIS
Daily News Staff Writer
Ketchikan High School senior Emma Scott swept four out of five categories in Saturday evening's Distinguished Young Women of Alaska competition at the Kayhi auditorium.
She said when the scores started rolling in, she remembers realizing that she was going to win.
"Oh, holy cow, I just won 75 percent of the competition!" she said she thought.
The event, formerly known as America's Junior Miss program, requires that high-school juniors and seniors perform in scholastics, interview, fitness, self-expression and talent. The only category Scott did not win was talent, in which she performed a tap dance to the song "All I Do is Dream of You," from the musical "Singin' in the Rain."
Eva Kowalski of Petersburg won the talent competition with her dance to the song "What a Feeling," Scott said.
Scott said she thinks what likely gave her the edge in the competition was a combination of her many years of involvement of dance and as a member of the Kayhi Drama, Debate and Forensics team.
As part of the debate team, she said she learned to think on her feet and speak well, although that was not on a stage.
In the self-expression portion of the competition, the participants wear a formal gown and walk onstage to answer a question for which they have two hours to prepare an answer. She said she never had done anything like that before.
"I'm definitely not a pageant girl," she said.
In self-expression, each girl is judged on her walk, poise and speaking. Scott said her question was, "Has increased security in schools had an effect on school environment?"
She said that although Kayhi hasn't had noticeable increases in security, she answered that any change that makes students feel safer is positive.
The category she was most surprised to win, Scott said, was scholastics. She said that because she is taking several Advanced Placement classes at Kayhi, where no extra weight is given to those college-level classes as is done in some other schools, her GPA is just below 4.0. She assumed her GPA wouldn't be the highest.
According to information at distinguishedyw.org, scholastics are scored by a panel of five scholars, counselors, and others familiar with high school transcript evaluation who review each participant's high school academic record and test scores.
Scott said that she will receive $500 for each category she won plus $1,500 for winning the overall competition. At the national competition at the end of June in Mobile, Ala., she will vie for the chance to win more scholarships. A few universities, such as Alabama's Auburn University, Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Ala. and Randolph College in Lynchburg, Va., offer full-ride scholarships to state-level winners.
Scott said Randolph is one college where she had applied, so that would be a great opportunity. She still is waiting for answers from her top-choice colleges, such as Columbia University and Harvard University.
Scott said she was quite familiar with the competition from volunteering with backstage work and helping with props and makeup for the past three years. She said Kayhi counselor Bob McClory encouraged her involvement, as did her parents.
Her role as participant rather than a volunteer was a whole new experience. "It's totally different," she said.
When she volunteered, she worked part of a Friday and Saturday. As a contestant, she and the other seven teens were kept busy with activities from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
Learning the opening dance number and the fitness were challenging, she said. She has danced in every form of dance offered by Ketchikan Theatre Ballet over the years, but preparing for the competition was fast-paced work.
An advantage she said she felt she had in practicing the dance and fitness routines was that she had worked under the coaches previously.
"I knew what I was getting into," she said. For example, Scott said she had been on the Kayhi dance team previously and knew that coach Jodi Williams would teach fast choreography at a rapid pace.
Even more daunting was learning the fitness routine with McClory's daughter, Aimee McClory — the 2007 Distinguished Young Woman of Alaska.
"She's really, really, really intense … I was scared," Scott said, laughing.
The fitness routine required a lot of upper-body strength — which Scott said was not her strongest area — with kick-boxing, punching moves and push-ups. She said she was pretty sore by the time rehearsal and training were done.
Scott said she appreciated the fact that the competition is held in Ketchikan. Bob McClory heads up the event, and moved it to Ketchikan several years ago. Scott said that not only does Ketchikan offer one of the best stages and auditoriums in the state, but also offers many interesting activities for the competitors to enjoy together.
This year, the group went zip-lining together early the first morning. They also went kayaking and visited Totem Bight State Historical Park.
"I got to do all these things I don't normally do," she said.
She said meeting girls from all over the state, rather than just those from Southeast, as had been the case over the years as she traveled for sports, was great.
"The girls you meet are really awesome," she said.
Scott said she was looking forward to seeing the South when she travels to the national competition in June, and especially looks forward to trying the food. She sounded a bit dubious about the planned oyster-eating contest, but she said she was looking forward to its rib-eating counterpart.
She said she worries about visiting the South in the summertime.
"I honestly think I'm going to die of heatstroke," she said.