Former second runner-up takes pageant title

Applauded by her fellow contestants, sophomore Yuri-Grace Ohashi claims the title of Miss Starr’s Mill.

Emma Smith, Staff Writer

After finishing as the second runner-up in last year’s Miss Starr’s Mill Pageant, sophomore Yuri-Grace Ohashi returned to the stage this year to claim the top title in the 14th annual pageant.

“When they called my name, it was just a moment of complete surprise,” Ohashi said about being named Miss Starr’s Mill. “I just realized that my whole life was about to change for the better.”

Ohashi won the crown by dancing to “All We Got” by Fergie and by impressing the judges with her interview. She also won the optional leadership essay, in which she wrote about her experiences as the Class of 2017 president. She made history as the second sophomore to win Miss Starr’s Mill after senior Emma Wernecke, who was the first sophomore to win in 2013.

Ohashi’s awards were not limited to the title of Miss Starr’s Mill. Her dress, a long beige gown, was voted best evening wear on the first night, and her dance was voted best talent on the second. Last year, she was the first freshman to make the top five.

Junior Hollyn Shadinger, the current Miss Peachtree City’s Outstanding Teen, earned her first runner-up status by singing “I Know You Won’t” by Carrie Underwood. She also won the talent award on the first night of the three-day pageant.

Along with the title and crown, Ohashi received $2,000 in scholarship money. Each of the top five contestants received prize money. Shadinger won $1,500, seniors Mariah Blanks, $1,000, and Kelly O’Shaughnessy, $600, and junior Alexa Echevarria, $400.

Ohashi said she was nervous about her dance routine in the weeks leading up to the pageant but regained her confidence just in time. “I had not run through the whole dance once without messing up,” she said. “I honestly was nervous up until I performed, plus I had knots in my thighs from working out. I felt under prepared, but my adrenaline helped me get through the dance on the second night.”

Ohashi looks forward to participating in Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen with Shadinger in June. Both automatically qualify because of their current titles.  “Hollyn and I were so happy for each other for making it to the final two,” she said. “We were excited for each other because we had grown close over the past few days.”

The pageant, directed by Drama teacher David Spearman with assistance from Math teacher Emily Willis, was separated into three nights. Preliminary awards were announced on Jan. 8-9, and final awards on Jan. 10. Contestants were joined by three special guests each night. Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen and former Miss Starr’s Mill senior Abby Feltner and Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Olivia McMillan wowed the crowd with their strong voices the first night. Miss Georgia USA, SMHS alumnus Brooke Fletcher, also made an appearance to support the contestants each night.

Rounding out the top 10 were Michaela Hillman, Ginni Gray, Erica Lantz, Cara Clements, and Sarah Kuehn.

Although the experience was something she will never forget, Ohashi plans to make the most of her time off between pageants. “Before the pageant, we were told to be conscious of what we eat,” she said. “Now that it’s over, I’m finally going to eat pizza and ice cream.”