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That was the theme for the 2014 Marion County Distinguished Young Woman program, and it describes this year’s winner, Bailey Spalding, to a tee.
She’s grown up enjoying her “Pepaw’s” farm in Arbuckle, she studied agri-business during the Governor’s Scholars Program this summer and she’s taking several agriculture courses during her senior year at Marion County High School.
Heck, she’s even preg-checked a cow.
It doesn’t get any more country than that.
Saturday evening, dressed in a strapless red gown and cowboy boots, Spalding became the 50th Marion County Distinguished Young Woman.
“It still hasn’t sunk in,” Spalding said Monday morning.
Spalding has been attending the Distinguished Young Woman programs (more commonly known as Junior Miss) since she was in middle school. When she was in eighth grade, her sister, Bobbi Marie, participated in the program. In 2009-10, Spalding watched her first cousin, Christine Mattingly, win the local and state programs, and she traveled to Mobile, Ala., to watch her compete at the national level.
This year’s program was a family affair, as well, with Spalding’s first cousin Nicole Mattingly (Christine’s sister), competing and winning first runner-up honors. Spalding said she and Nicole are extremely close, almost like sisters, but she never felt like they were competing against each other.
“I felt more comfortable with her there,” Spalding said. “We were always there to comfort each other and support each other.”
And, with both cousins participating, the gym was full of their family members, friends, classmates and teammates who all voiced their support for both young ladies very loudly.
“We basically took up a whole section of the bleachers,” Spalding laughed.
But hearing the cheers of support from her family and friends was an amazing feeling, she said.
“Every time I was on stage it was just so surreal,” Spalding said. “The program just flew by.”
By the end of the night, Spalding had won the whole shebang, as well as a preliminary scholastic award, an interview award, a self-expression award and a talent award for her performance of “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley while playing guitar.
Spalding said she began playing guitar two years ago, and once she got the hang of it, she decided to start singing, too. At first, she was a little apprehensive about singing, but her mom was very encouraging of her vocal abilities.
“My mom would make me sing for her, and she was always there praising me,” Spalding said.
Spalding admits to being nervous while performing her talent, and also before her judges’ interview earlier in the day. She was worried the judges were going to be intimidating, but quickly learned that not to be the case.
“My interview went so well,” Spalding said. “The judges… I loved every single one of them. They were so friendly. I was expecting the worse, but they made me feel so comfortable.”
Spalding said during her interview the judges said she was an “old soul.”
“I considered it a compliment,” Spalding said.
Apparently, so did the judges.
Winning a scholastic award was especially gratifying for Spalding because it’s something she’s been working toward her entire high school career. And, while she and her family wanted her to do well during the program, she never felt pressured to win.
“My family wanted me to just have fun,” Spalding said. “The scholarship money, if it came, would just be a perk.”
Spalding hasn’t yet decided where she wants to attend college, but she’s extremely excited about her senior year, which will include AP Calculus, AP Literature and some electives she’s always wanted to take, including Spanish 3 and several agriculture classes.
She is interested in studying chemistry and/or bio chemistry after high school. She got a taste of it during the Governor’s Scholars Program at Morehead State University this summer. Four of her fellow Distinguished Young Woman participants also attended GSP at Morehead. Spalding studied agribusiness and bio technology during GSP, which is also where she preg checked a cow.
Saturday evening, 20 of her fellow GSP classmates from all across the state came to cheer her on, as well as the other GSP scholars.
“I felt loved,” Spalding said. “It was awesome.”
Spalding is the daughter of Paula Raikes and Robert Spalding.
First runner-up: Natalie Nicole Mattingly
Second runner-up: Macy Alexandra McFall
Third runner-up: Sarah Danielle Spalding
Overall - Macy Jo Bradshaw
Preliminary - Bailey Spalding, Natalie Nicole Mattingly, and Brooklyn Ryan Russell
Abby Renee Blandford, Bailey Spalding and Mary Alexandra McFall
Natalie Nicole Mattingly, Sarah Danielle Spalding and Bailey Spalding
Macy Jo Bradshaw, Alexus Calhoun and Natalie Nicole Mattingly
Sarah Danielle Spalding, Natalie Nicole Mattingly and Bailey Spalding
Be Your Best Self
Kaitlyn Marie Mattingly
Kara Katilyn Barlow