When 16-year-old McKenzie Brooks stepped onstage Friday night, she didn’t think she would leave as this year’s Miss Grays Harbor’s Outstanding Teen.
“I’m so honored, and I’m still in disbelief,” Brooks said. “All of the girls were so amazing. Any one of them could have won.”
The crown, given to a young woman between the ages of 13 and 17, comes with a $400 scholarship, and Brooks earned additional money for winning the lifestyle and fitness award, the interview award, the talent award and the “four points of the crown” award for the contestant who demonstrates the most style, service, scholarship and success.
Brooks hopes to use the scholarship money to study oral biology in order to become an oral surgeon.
Outgoing Outstanding Teen Erin Kuhn crowned her replacement onstage. She said that while she’s sad her year with the title is over, she believes Brooks will do a great job.
“This past year has been amazing,” Kuhn said. “It’s hard to believe it’s over. But McKenzie is a wonderful girl.”
Kuhn and Brooks are classmates at Aberdeen High School.
Brooks stole the show with her soulful rendition of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” on the saxophone. She took the stage in a flouncy, purple dress and danced while playing her instrument.
Other contestants showcased their musical talents by playing the flute, the trumpet and singing. One contestant danced, while another recited the poem “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll.
In honor of her grandfather, Brooks’ platform is “Finding the Cure for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma through Relay for Life.” She participated in last year’s Relay, walking for a full 24 hours. She hopes to do the same this year, as has already started working with her Relay team.
“It’s a really important cause, and something that has touched my family,” Brooks said.
During the show, the contestants and Kuhn performed an opening number to “Footloose.” They then participated in the lifestyle and fitness competition, in which they showcased their physical strength by doing pushups. Unlike in Miss Grays Harbor, the Outstanding Teens aren’t judged in a swimsuit category.
Kuhn described her year as the reigning Outstanding Teen, during which she collected birthday gifts for local foster children. She also placed as fourth runner-up in the Miss Washington’s Outstanding Teen competition.
Ariana Barré was this year’s runner-up and Karli Heikkila was the second runner-up. Nora Coffelt, Katurah Martin, Jordyn Bonell, Amber Brand, Hannah Baumgardner, Alex Elledge and Kayla Robinette also competed.
This year’s Miss Congeniality award didn’t go to one of the contestants, but instead to Madison Davis. Davis wasn’t able to participate in the competition because she is the granddaughter of the pageant’s Executive Director Sue Drolz. Davis was allowed to dance with the contestants and perform in the talent portion of the show.
Kuhn was joined onstage by the Miss Grays Harbor Little Sisters, who danced while she played the Peanuts theme song while wearing tiaras and glittery dresses. The girls also danced to a song called “Happy Feet.”
Former Miss Grays Harbor’s Outstanding Teens Connie Morgan, Blythe Beebe and Lizzie Henderson also took the stage.
Tonight, nine young women will compete for the title of Miss Grays Harbor. The pageant will take place at 7 p.m. at Hoquiam’s 7th St. Theatre.