Ramlochan named 3rd runner-up in state DYW program

Published 1:02 pm Thursday, January 16, 2020

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LEXINGTON — It is an oft-used cliche that there are no losers in a competition featuring outstanding participants.

This certainly could be said for the 62nd annual Distinguished Young Women of Kentucky Scholarship Program held in Lexington this past weekend, as the stage of the Singletary Center for the Arts was filled with winners. Using a variety of criteria to help judges select standout candidates, just one high school senior girl from counties across the commonwealth was deemed worthy to represent her home county at the state level.

Not all of Kentucky’s 120 counties have a Distinguished Young Women (DYW) program, but there were 33 county winners vying for over $26,750 in cash scholarships and the title of 2020 DYW of Kentucky.

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Among those 33 winners was Lincoln County’s 2020 DYW winner SaraGrace Ramlochan. While Ramlochan of Waynesburg did not win the big prize, she finished near the top, selected by the panel of five judges as the third runner-up in the DYW finals competition Saturday evening. She received a cash scholarship of $1,000 as runner-up.

No one was more surprised than Ramlochan when her name was called as the state DYW third runner-up.

“Very much so surprised. I did not think I was going to get that far in the program,” the 17-year-old Lincoln County High School senior said. “I just went there to have a good time and do that on my own, independently without my parents. I was shocked after I heard I was called for Top 10, I was not expecting that. Then, they called me for third runner-up and I was very shocked.”

Ramlochan may not have anticipated a high placement in the state DYW, however, she admitted she prepared herself for a non-finalist finish.

“Saturday night before we went on and everyone was having fun, I went into a little corner and, like, prepared myself just in case I didn’t make Top 10,” she said. “I told myself, ‘It’s okay. You’ve had fun this week. You get to relax backstage and watch all those other girls.’ And then they called my name for Top 10.”

Ramlochan made multiple appearances center stage during the DYW program’s second preliminary Saturday morning and again in the evening. At the conclusion of all preliminary competitions Saturday morning, winners were named in the Self-Expression and Fitness preliminaries. Ramlochan was named as a winner in the Self-Expression preliminary category, for which she received a $300 cash scholarship. Before the announcement of the winner and runners-up Saturday night, Ramlochan was also named as a winner in the Interview preliminary. She was presented with a $300 cash scholarship in that area as well.

Ramlochan received $7,700 in cash scholarships between the local and state scholarship programs. The DYW program, formerly known as Junior Miss, is the oldest and largest scholarship program for female high school seniors in the country, is based on Scholastic Achievement, Judges Interview, Talent, Self-Expression and Fitness.

Saturday’s DYW finals were the culmination of a week filled with practices, rehearsals, service projects and competition. During the Friday evening and Saturday morning preliminaries, judges made their final selections for the program to narrow the field of 33 participants down to 10, setting the stage for the finals.

After the parade of participants to open Saturday night’s program, Ramlochan and the other DYW county winners waited anxiously on stage hoping to hear their names in the list of the Top 10 Finalists. Ramlochan’s hopes were realized when she was the seventh finalist named. The finalists were called in random order, but the order they were called was the order in which they would perform again in Fitness, Talent and Self-Expression. 

One might think that stress levels would really go up after being named a Top 10 Finalist, knowing you would have to compete all over again. That wasn’t the case for Ramlochan.

“I really think that when I was in the Top 10 that things were going so quickly I almost didn’t have time to be nervous. And I was just so amazed that I made Top 10 that I was just like, ‘Go out and do your best!’’’ she said. “It was a little stressful, but one of the things I liked about Top 10 was that, after they told you you are in the Top 10, they didn’t give you two hours to think about it. There was no break in the program. It was just, Go!”

And “Go!” she did, quickly changing into her fitness outfit for the first finals competition.

“I changed my clothes and the choreographer was there again helping us and she made the formations a lot easier for us to learn so that we just had to remember our moves,” Ramlochan said.

Ramlochan had a case of the giggles during the finals Fitness routine, however, when she missed a move – her one mistake in the routine.

“Sometimes I just feel like that’s the way to cut the tensions,” she said of her sudden laughter. “Sometimes it is easy to get upset with yourself but, because I went there to have fun and I did not think I would make the Top 10, I really couldn’t have been upset with myself, even if I had fallen down on stage.” 

Ramlochan, attired in a one-shouldered white jumpsuit, commanded the stage with her vocal performance of “My Heart Will Go On” from the movie “Titanic” during the Talent finals.

Then it was time for the Top 10 finalists’ final competition – Self-Expression. After each participant took the stage, they were asked by program emcee Kristi Runyon Middleton to draw a question out of a fish bowl for an onstage impromptu response.

“That was a little nerve-racking,” said Ramlochan. “Before we went out on stage Christi McQuire, the stage production person, told us that she’d read all of the questions and they weren’t solving world peace or anything, they were for 17-year-old girls to tell them about themselves. So that definitely calmed me down a little bit. Then, because I wasn’t the first person in Top 10, I had six more girls in front of me, I heard their questions and answers and that really inspired me to do my best.”

The question Ramlochan drew out of the fish bowl was: What personal trait or traits do you possess, that will help you beyond high school or in college?

“I think a personal trait that I incorporate in my life is determination,” she responded. “That’s something that I’ve always needed throughout my four years of high school and even some years in middle school. That’s something that I would like to take with me to college and even beyond that in my career.”

“Determination has taught me so many things. It’s taught me that whenever I have failures, that things will be okay. And whenever I do have successes, that there will be failures that I can overcome.”

While Ramlochan proceeded through finals with little stress, she admitted she was a little nervous in the first two preliminary sessions.

“Before finals, on the Friday night and Saturday morning performances, I was a little bit nervous about my talent and about my self expression,” she said. “I was nervous if I’d remember the points I’d made in my head or if I would hit that high note as good as I did when I rehearsed.”

Now that Ramlochan’s week in Lexington to prepare for and compete in the state DYW program is over, would the Lincoln teen go through it again?

“Oh, yes. It was incredible. If I was given the opportunity to do that week all over again with the same girls, I would do it again instantly. It was phenomenal,” she said. “I was a little nervous at first because I didn’t know everyone and I’m not used to being away from home. There were 32 of us and there was a lot to get done, but it was wonderful. The girls were so friendly and nice and the choreographers and all the committee people made it so easy to learn so much in so little time.”

During her time in Lexington, Ramlochan stayed at the home of Marge Leinback and had Reagan Earlywine, Bourbon County’s DYW, as her roommate.

Elif Ozyurekoglu of Louisville was selected as Kentucky’s Distinguished Young Woman for 2020 and received a $6,000 cash scholarship. Ozyurekoglu was a winner in the Talent preliminary and was the overall Interview and Scholastic Achievement winner. She received $300 as a Talent preliminary winner, $750 as overall Interview winner and $1,000 as the overall Scholastic Achievement winner.

The first runner-up and recipient of a $3,250 cash scholarship was Angie Xiao of Fayette County. She was a winner in the preliminaries of Self-Expression and Judges Interview, receiving $300 for each.

Leah Tabor of Warren County was named second runner-up. She received a $2,000 cash scholarship. She won in the Scholastic Achievement preliminary, a $300 cash award, and was the overall Fitness winner, a $750 award.

Fourth runner-up was Mary Medley of Washington County. She was presented a $750 cash scholarship. She was named the overall Self-Expression winner for which she received $750.

Lincoln County was mentioned repeatedly during the state DYW program. In addition to Ramlochan’s participation, the local program, chaired by Sheila Underwood, was recognized as once again offering the most cash scholarships, with $21,100 awarded at the 2020 program, just a few thousand dollars short of the state’s cash scholarships.

Marion County ranked second behind Lincoln with $15,600 cash scholarships offered. Rowan County was ranked third with $14,750, Taylor County was fourth with $12,450 and Washington County was fifth with $12,050.