Not a pageant: Morgan Vardaman named 2016 Distinguished Young Woman

Published 4:00 am Tuesday, August 4, 2015

MESSENGER PHOTO/COURTNEY PATTERSON2015 Distinguished Young Woman Caitlin Hicks, left, with 2016 Distinguished Young Woman Morgan Vardaman after the program.

MESSENGER PHOTO/COURTNEY PATTERSON2015 Distinguished Young Woman Caitlin Hicks, left, with 2016 Distinguished Young Woman Morgan Vardaman after the program.

Out of eleven participants, Morgan Vardaman earned the title of “distinguished” Saturday afternoon. Vardaman was named the 2016 Distinguished Young Woman in this year’s Distinguished Young Women program, which is held annually. Vardaman also won the talent award.

“This title is everything that I stand for,” Vardaman said. “I’ve been in beauty pageants before, and I’ve never won. This program is actually about being smart, talented and being an all-around good person.”

Vardaman is a senior at Charles Henderson High School and plans to attend the University of Alabama to pursue a degree in speech pathology with the scholarship money she won for DYW. Vardaman said that she wants to be able to work with the deaf and teach them how to speak.

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During the program, Vardaman stood out from the rest with her clogging talent. She performed a clog dance to “I Played Chicken With a Train” by Cowboy Troy, engaging the audience until she blew her own train whistle.

“When I chose the song, I wanted to display what clogging is all about, and it’s about being upbeat and fun,” she said. “When I’m up there, I don’t really look at anybody. I am just doing what I love to do.”

Vardaman began clogging when she was 3 years old.

“I just fell in love with it,” Vardaman said.

Vardaman will go on to participate in the state DYW program Jan. 8-16.

“If I could win state, that would be amazing because I’ve never made it this far,” Vardaman said. “I’ve always dreamed of doing that but never had the opportunity. I’m excited to be representing Pike County.”

Candy Howard-Shaughnessy, director of Pike County Distinguished Young Women, said that she is excited for Vardaman, and they will begin preparing for the next steps in her journey to the state program.

“I am very excited for Morgan,” Shaughnessy said. “We will begin preparing for state soon. She is going to be well-prepared, have a wonderful time and represent Pike County well. The Alabama Distinguished Young Women program will be in January, and we hope the community will pitch in and send her off to the state competition with lots of cards and gifts.”

During the competition, the young women participated in the Self-Expression portion for 15 percent of the score, answering questions such as, “If you could leave three things in a time capsule that would be opened 100 years from now, what would it be?,” “Who is a famous Alabamian woman you admire?,” etc. Participants also performed a 90 second talent for 20 percent of their scores and a fitness routine for 15 percent. The scholastics and the interview portions were completed before the program, making up the remaining 50 percent of scores.

Other winners include Kacie Gibbons, Be Your Best Self Essay, Scholastics, Self-Expression and First Runner Up; Kaylin Riley, Spirit of Jr. Miss; Elizabeth Watson, Interview and Second Runner Up and Olivia Schroeder, Fitness.

Board members for DYW include Cae Allen, Michelle Armstrong, Howard-Shaughnessy, Traci Huner, Marilee Hussey, Lauren Prawius, Brooke Terry and Shondra Whitaker.