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Ashley Surkamer, 16, is Miss Teen Citrus, and Rebekah Gregory, 21, is Miss Citrus County.
By MARY ANN KOSLASKY
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 12, 2001
INVERNESS -- Ashley Surkamer had a leg up, literally, on her competition in Friday's Miss Teen Citrus pageant.
The 16-year-old Crystal River High student performed a dance routine. In one of her first moves she raised her right leg tightly perpendicular to her body, toes solidly pointed to the roof. Gasps and groans erupted from the audience. She performed to Luck Be A Lady Tonight from the musical Guys and Dolls.
Luck was a lady, and Ashley was crowned Miss Teen Citrus, receiving a $1,500 scholarship and a multitude of other prizes.
Miss Citrus 1998, Shalyn Barnes, was mistress of ceremonies, joined by Miss Teen Citrus 2000 Kristen Howard. When Barnes pronounced Surkamer Miss Teen Citrus, Surkamer's first reaction was simple.
"Oh my gosh," she said, before being smothered in hugs by the other contestants.
When asked what she was feeling, she replied, "It's so overwhelming. I guess all my practice was worth it."
First runner-up was Shilah Goodwin, 15, who performed Let 'Er Rip. Second runner-up was Jennifer Sauers, 16, who danced to Razzle Dazzle. Third runner-up was Melissa Fudge, 14, who donned poodle skirt and bobby socks for a jazz dance to Splish Splash. Fourth runner-up was Kasia Tubman, 15, whose sobering monologue, Amy, told of the loss of her friend to a hit-and-run driver. Chosen by the pageant participants as Miss Congeniality was Virginia Koch, 16, who danced to I Will Survive.
The girls were interviewed separately on Friday afternoon. Judges looked at their mental awareness, personality, voice, poise and personal appearance for 40 percent of the total score. Bathing suit and evening gown competitions counted for 15 percent each and talent was 30 percent.
On Saturday, 21-year-old Rebekah Gregory proved that persistence pays off. She became Miss Citrus County after her third attempt in this pageant.
Just as in the 2000 Miss Citrus County scholarship pageant, she was awarded the title Miss Congeniality. "Last year I won Miss Congeniality," recalled Gregory. "But I didn't even place in the finalists. When I won Miss Congeniality again this year, I just kept waiting as they named each one."
A former Miss Teen Citrus, Gregory knows the emotional toll of winning.
"When I won Miss Teen, I cried, " said Gregory. "My goal this year, if I won, was not to bawl like a baby."
But the tears flowed as she bent to allow Miss Citrus 2000, Kacie Whaley, to place the crown firmly on her head. They flowed as she hugged all the other participants, and they flowed as family and friends surrounded her, offering hugs and kisses, and taking photos.
In the on-stage interview, she was asked why she had become interested in competing in the pageants. Her reply was simple and honest.
"I became involved because I thought it would be fun, and not hard -- but it is," said Gregory, who has participated for five years in the two pageants. She also noted that the scholarship money, $1,500, was an incentive.
"Education is an essential part of life. . . . Money from the pageants (has made) my dream of going to college a reality," said Gregory, a student at Central Florida Community College.
The first runner-up was Ellen King, 17, who performed a tap routine to Fabulous Feet. Second runner-up was Melissa Terrero, 18, whose clear soprano gave sweetness to her performance of Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again. Third runner-up was Ashleigh Commander, 18, whose self-written dramatic monologue, Regrets, was a reminder not to take loved ones for granted. Fourth runner-up was Stephanie Fohrman, 18, who danced and sang Almost Like Being in Love.
As with Miss Teen, the young ladies were interviewed on Saturday afternoon, and scoring was the same.
The mistress of ceremonies for the evening was 1985 Miss Citrus County Rosemary Silvestro DeMott, who also choreographed the opening number for the pageants and showed the audience that once a dancer, always a dancer, with her own exciting performance.
Some interesting facts emerged over the two nights: Nearly $9,000 was given out at the two pageants. Board member Hal Porter does sometimes give up dungarees and plaid shirt to don a jacket and tie, and there is plenty of talent in Citrus County.