With their hair perfectly done and faces smiling, 27 Indian Land High School girls took to the stage Friday night, each hoping to walk away with a sash, tiara and bouquet of flowers.
The event was the 2009 Miss Warrior Pageant.
Winners for the evening were: Alexa Watkins, Miss Freshman Princess; Andrea Lavieri, Miss Sophomore Princess; Jaimee Langton, Miss Junior Princess; and Shannon Hammaker, Miss Warrior 2009. Miss Congeniality, chosen by the girls, went to junior Emily Simpson.
This pageant was one of the largest the school has held and included new features designed to help the students show off their brains as well as their beauty.
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New this year were required recommendations from teachers and interview questions. Each contestant had to submit five recommendations from teachers designed to evaluate the students on criteria such as grades, attitude and school spirit. The interview questions were randomly selected for each contestant based on a group of questions the students received before the competition.
The scores on those recommendations and the interview portion of the program were added to scores for appearance in casual and formal wear.
"The Miss Warrior committee felt that the questions, along with the teacher recommendations, gave judges an opportunity to see a different side of the contestants," said organizer Cindy Humphrey in an e-mail to the Fort Mill Times. "We didn't want the pageant to just be about clothes and physical appearance. We'd eventually like to see Miss Warrior become an ambassador for the school and represent it out in our community."
Hammaker, the newly crowned Miss Warrior, is no stranger to the stage. She has won titles before, including pageant titles in the sixth, seventh and eighth grade and Miss. Freshman in 2005.
Her interview question - "What advice would you give a freshman starting her high school career and why?" - was an easy one to answer, she said.
"Concentrate on school work because future success will depend on how she does in high school," Hammaker said.
"And, to carry herself with dignity and respect. "
Hammaker's brother, Derek, died nearly a year to the date of this year's Miss Warrior pageant in a head-on collision. He was on her mind Friday night as she remembered how he brought her bouquets of flowers when she competed in previous pageants.
"That's always on my mind," she said.
"Anything school related, he seems a part of. He would have patted me on the back and given me flowers."