Soldotna teen finds place in competition

Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2002

Katie Lockwood was never the little girl twirling in front of the mirror dreaming of how she would one day be a beauty pageant queen.

"I hate pageants. I would never do one," said the Soldotna resident. "Not a crown. Definitely not. I'm more of a tomboy type."

She may say that now, but for the last few weeks of June, Lockwood tossed aside her tomboyish ways and donned evening dresses, makeup and curls for the National Junior Miss scholarship competition in Mobile, Ala.

"It's not a pageant," said the 19-year-old 2002 Skyview High School graduate. "It really is a scholarship competition. Most scholarships are for being really good at one thing. This rewards you for being really well-rounded."

Lockwood said she must have been well-rounded enough, because not only was she the first contestant from Alaska since the state program's inception in 1958 to make it into the group of top eight finalists, but she also was named the third runner-up for the entire national competition.

"I was shocked," she said of her success. "I wasn't really nervous because I didn't think I had a chance."

For her efforts, Lockwood walked away from the competition $17,500 richer.

"(The money) is going to be very helpful. I won't have to take out any loans this year," said Lockwood who plans to study theater and political science at the College of Saint Benedict in Minnesota beginning this fall.

A large portion of her scholarship money, $10,000, was her prize for being a runner-up. In addition, she also won $3,000 for placing in the top eight and $2,500 for being one of four preliminary poise winners. Lockwood also got $2,000 for winning the competition in Alaska last fall.

More than the money, Lockwood said the entire experience was a lot of fun.

"I came away with 49 new friends," she said of the camaraderie that was formed among all the contestants. "We were all surprised. I think we all expected it to be (catty). Everyone was so nice."

All 50 contestants had plenty of time to bond. Lockwood said she arrived in Mobile June 13 and didn't leave until the day after the final program, June 29.

Throughout most of those 16 days, the contestants were busy preparing for the two preliminary competitions that took place June 25 and 26. They practiced their fitness, poise and opening routine choreography for nine hours a day. When they weren't busy on the dance floor, the program had special lunches and dinners for them to meet the program's national sponsors or civic groups from Mobile.

At night, once all the activities for the day were finally over, Lockwood and her roommate, Niki Stamos of Ohio, had time to get to know their host family, the White-Spunners.

Still, nothing is like having a personal cheering section from home, so Lockwood's parents, Erin and Harry, and her foreign exchange student brother all traveled to Mobile for the competition.

"It is a really good idea that they have a representation from their state," said Mary Green, co-chair for the Alaska Junior Miss Program. "The girls know it. They notice. It affects them in a small way."

It would be impossible for anyone except the competition's judges to say for sure what made them select one contestant over another, but Lockwood impressed them enough to make her the first contestant in Alaska's history to even make it into the top 16.

She was the last of the 16 who were acknowledged at the end of the second and final night of preliminary competition. Although it was in no particular order and as it would turn out Lockwood was actually one of the eight out of 16 who would be asked to compete during the televised show June 29, Green said she still thought at the time that something must have gone wrong.

"Oh, I thought, 'She's not going to get this,'" Green said describing the anticipation before Lockwood was called. "Her facial expressions were just so awesome. She has confidence, sparkle, very true. She is a natural, loving human being."

One more aspect of Lockwood's personality helped her through the competition and will undoubtedly continue to benefit her in life.

"She has a lot of drive. Whenever she does something, she does it fully," Green said.

As for life after the crown, there will be a few parades and appearances on the peninsula.

"I don't mind it actually," Lockwood said of her newfound fame. "I get to be a little bit of a celebrity."

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