MOUNT VERNON — As the countdown continues to the final days of this year’s Ohio’s Junior Miss Scholarship Program, 27 young women from around Ohio prepare for this weekend’s competition. On Monday, the fitness portion and self-expression was rehearsed.
“It’s not, are you a dancer, but are you physically fit,” said Jennifer Richards, OJM director.
Although the fitness routine incorporates dance moves, the major focus of this portion of the competition is to the exhibit the overall health of each contestant.
Each year, a fitness choreographer is brought in to teach the contestants routines that present the individual’s agility, stamina, overall fitness and health.
Richards said being healthy is a central part of the Be Your Best Self platform, and that judges look at each element of the program for a well-rounded contestant.
“This is their first practice and it’s pretty amazing to see the girls not having a problem keeping up,” said Mary Erskine, choreographer for the fitness routine. “They absolutely worked hard.”
“And they had fun while doing it,” said Christine Hamilton, assistant choreographer.
“It was so much fun,” said Westerville’s Junior Miss, Sarah Escape.
“Mary made it so much fun and she was very energetic,” said Chelsea Barney, Preble County’s Junior Miss.
This year, preparation was stressed, and each contestant was given a DVD of the fitness routine in advance to practice on their own.
“So they had two months to work on it,” said Erskine. “In these practices, we bring all of the moves together and fine tune the routine.”
“The DVD was very helpful and it relieved a lot of stress, having it before the practice,” said Central Knox County Junior Miss Micayla Simmons.
With the first day of practice, small changes were made to make the fitness performance reveal the best self for each girl.
“We had a good group of girls. They easily adapted to changes made and they really wanted to learn,” said Erskine.
Erskine has been working with Junior Miss for seven years — at the state level for two, and the county level for five.
Throughout the years, Erskine has seen changes made to incorporate balance, flexibility and strength into the total routine, at the same time keeping the dance moves.
Junior Miss participants also practiced their self-expression portion of the program on Monday.
Choreographer Mindy Farry has been working with OJM for two years, teaching the young women their opening and closing numbers, self-expression and even having a little fun with the Do-Dads.
“These girls are so great to work with,” she said. “They finished three numbers in two days time; they are marvelous.”
For over 30 years, Farry has worked in choreographed production, and understands the importance of bringing group unison as well as an individual sense of self to the poise and modeling portion of the program.
“We also want the girls to convey their personality to the judge as well as grace, poise and present how they handle themselves,” she said.