MOUNT VERNON — Monica Lee Bates of Auglaize County was named this year’s Ohio’s Junior Miss on Saturday night at the 52nd annual scholarship program.
“This is indescribable,” said Bates. “I never thought it would be me. When they called Allison Ge as first runner-up I was like, ‘Well, who’s left,’ because it seemed like she won everything and she’s so amazing. I was just shocked I couldn’t believe it. This is just amazing.
“Yesterday at the beginning of the program I got a little nervous,” said Bates. “By the end of yesterday I had everything done except talent, and today I just focused on my talent. I was really happy with how that went.
“This week was the most amazing week of my life,” said Bates. “I met so many amazing girls and I absolutely love my roommate [Jenna Vucelich]; she’s so wonderful. Everyone has been so supportive. Even after we’ve been through hours of rehearsal, everyone was just amazing and so happy.”
Bates is the daughter of Gary Bates, and Barbara and John Rezabek. After graduation from Wapakoneta High School, she plans to attend Bowling Green State University and focus on getting her Ph.D. in physical therapy.
“I don’t even know what to say,” said Barbara Rezabek. “I’m just so proud of her. We just wanted her to come down here and do her best. She would have won even if she wouldn’t have won any awards because she had a beautiful week, met wonderful friends, and she had a great time and that would have been enough. But this is just icing on a big cake.
“I think the program is the most wonderful thing she has done,” said Rezabek. “She does a lot with school but this will be the highlight of her senior year. She has had such an experience that she will remember for the rest of her life.”
The excitement was palpable as the participants and their families gathered on stage to celebrate and congratulate the award winners.
“I’m very excited right now. I didn’t come here with that high of an expectation to win; it feels incredible,” said Qizhou “Allison” Ge of Central Mahoning County, OJM first runner-up. “This whole entire week has been incredible; the girls have been incredible to work with. Yesterday was actually the first day I started to feel nervous, I actually came on stage feeling sick. But as the program progressed, I started to feel a lot better.”
The daughter of Xiaoli and Weiqing Ge, she also won awards in the scholastic, interview and talent categories. She hopes to attend Harvard University after graduation from Ursuline High School, majoring in economics.
Second runner-up was Jeanette Logan, Greater Morrow County. The two finalists were Sarah Escape of Westerville and Abby Brown, Darke County.
Logan also received an interview award, and Escape won a scholastic award.
Bates received awards in the fitness category, and in talent for her vocal and dance performance to the song “I can’t do it alone,” from Broadway’s Chicago.
Cassidy Artz of Cuyahoga County also won a scholastic award.
The fitness award was also given to Melissa Redick of Northern Morrow County; the self-expression award was presented to Jenna Vucelich of Greater Delaware County and Jalessa Brown of Greater Stark County.
“I’m very pleased at how everything went,” said Jen Richards, program director. “The crew did a great job and the girls had a fantastic time. I’m very excited for Monica and I think she’s going to do a good job representing Ohio in Mobile, Ala.”