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Paige Wilson had never heard of Junior Miss before she and her family moved from Gainesville, Fla., to Marion County three years ago, but she watched last year's competition and decided to participate herself this year.
Saturday night at the Roby Dome, Wilson was named the 2012 Marion County Distinguished Young Woman.
"I was in shock really," she said Sunday afternoon. "I didn't expect that at all."
This year will be the final Marion County Junior Miss program. Starting, next year, it will be the Distinguished Young Women program. The national Junior Miss organizers are in the process of changing the name to better reflect what the program is about.
Wilson's accomplishment Saturday evening may have been a surprise to her, but she put in a lot of work to earn it.
In addition to winning the overall title, she also received interview, preliminary scholastic, self expression and talent awards.
Wilson and third runner-up Taylor Corbett both missed several of the Junior Miss practices because they spent five weeks this summer in the Governor's Scholars Program. Still, they made time to work on their fitness routine, even if they weren't able to practice with the rest of the group.
Wilson was in the Rock 'N' Roll group during this year's 1970s-themed program, and when she finally was able to make it to practices regularly, she felt like she was behind the other participants, she said. However, several people, including the choreographers and her fellow participants, helped her catch up, she added.
Even after GSP was over, she had other responsibilities this summer.
Wilson, who has played the flute for seven years, said she is involved "in all aspects of Marion County's band." In recent weeks, that meant she was attending band camp during the day and Junior Miss practices at night.
"It's pretty exhausting, but all for great causes," she said.
Wilson said her favorite parts of participating in Junior Miss were the down times when she and the other participants could relax together. She added that there were many memorable moments throughout the experience, including the sleepover and the breakfast on the morning of the program, but she'll never forget hearing the shouts of support when they came out for the opening Saturday night.
"It's just when everything's about to begin, and you take a deep breath and you're like, 'Holy cow, can't stop now,'" Wilson said.
Wilson will represent Marion County in the state program in January, but she won't be alone. Christine Mattingly, the reigning Kentucky's Distinguished Young Woman, will be there as well to do emcee duty.
"I might be asking her for advice," Wilson said.
Looking ahead, Wilson plans to attend the University of Louisville or Western Kentucky University. She wants to pursue a career in evolutionary biology, and she has a particular interest in ornithology, the study of birds.
For younger students who may be debating whether they want to participate in Distinguished Young Women next year, Wilson said she would first want to know why they are participating. She would discourage anyone from going into the pageant as a cutthroat competition because that's not really what the program is about.
"If you're going into it to make friends have fun and just have an incredible experience, I'd say, go for it," Wilson said.
Marion County Distinguished Young Woman: Paige Wilson
First runner-up: Catharine Ball
Second runner-up: Anne Claire Thomas
Third runner- up: Taylor Corbett
Talent: Olivia Carrico, Catharine Ball, Sydney Abell, Paige Wilson
Fitness: Sydney Abell, Catharine Ball, Josephine Elder, Anne Kathryn Spalding
Self Expression: Catharine Ball, Anne Kathryn Spalding, Anne Claire Thomas, Paige Wilson
Interview: Catharine Ball, Taylor Corbett, Anne Claire Thomas, Paige Wilson
Overall Scholastic: Taylor Corbett
Preliminary Scholastic: Sydney Abell, Anne Claire Thomas, Paige Wilson
Be Your Best Self: Ann Rachel Bell
Spirit of Junior Miss: Lauren Buckman