Rzepka of Niles wins teen titlePublished 9:23am Monday, August 17, 2009
By JOHN EBY
Niles Daily Star
DOWAGIAC – Miss Cassopolis 2006 Ashley Solloway, 21, Saturday night at Dowagiac Middle School Performing Arts Center won Miss Cass-St. Joseph County 2010.
Her title includes the opportunity to compete for Miss Michigan in Muskegon next June and a $1,000 scholarship.
Six contestants competed. Ashley’s first runner-up, who can also compete to qualify for Muskegon, is Jennifer Frayer, 19, of Edwardsburg.
Second runner-up is Amanda Webb of Sturgis.
Outstanding Teen went to Abby Rzepka, 13, an eighth grader at Ring Lardner Junior High School in Niles.
Another Ring Lardner student, Hannah Montgomery of Edwardsburg, won second runner-up.
Ashley is the fourth straight queen from Cassopolis, including Linaya Hass in 2007, Anjelica Francisco in 2008 and Linaya’s sister, Cally Hass, in 2009. The last non-Cassopolis queen, Marisa Viestenz of Dowagiac in 2006, came home from Oklahoma City to serve as mistress of ceremonies.
Teen First Runner-up is Nicole Irwin of Dowagiac with a lyrical dance and a platform on the importance of extra-curricular activities.
Nicole, Teen Contestant 3, won the People’s Choice voting in the lobby and the Four Points Award exemplifying the Miss America organization with her warmth, caring and friendliness.
People’s Choice among the six Miss contestants was Lee Zimmerman, who attends Glen Oaks Community College in Centreville.
Relinquishing their 2009 crowns were Cally Hass of Cassopolis and Lacey Stanage of Niles.
Miss Contestant 5 Jasmine Nelson of Niles, who attends Western Michigan University, won the award for ad sales and the Four Points Miss America gift for the older contestants.
Teen Contestant 1 Hannah Montgomery of Edwardsburg sold the most tickets.
Abby, Teen Contestant 4, whose platform was animal cruelty and abandonment, has a dog, a Maltese named Gwen.
Singing, the admirer of teen sensation Taylor Swift “was so nervous my hands were shaking.” Abby was appearing in her first pageant. “I’ve never done anything like this before,” she said, “but I like it. I’ve been in a lot of plays, but nothing like this.”
When Abby heard her number announced, it took her a moment to realize it was her.
“Phil and I worked on having a monologue that reflected my platform,” Effects of Alcohol Abuse, Ashley said Sunday morning at a brunch at Pageant Director Phillip Hurlbutt’s house.
Ironically, the queen and her court are the three of the six contestants who performed monologues as opposed to singing and dancing.
Ashley danced for 10 years, “but I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do something different. I thought Miss Sturgis (Krista Zickafoose) was the coolest thing ever. I’d never seen someone dance with sign language. She was really interesting.”
“You had your funny one (Jennifer Frayer), your emotional one (Amber Webb) and then you had mine, which was kind of serious,” said Ashley.
Both queens agreed the hardest part of the contest is standing on stage until smiles start to “twitch.”
Abby, daughter of Jim and Kellie Rzepka, is interested in music for her future. One of her favorite bands is Black-Eyed Peas. She plays flute.
At school, Abby plays basketball and volleyball.
Abby knows First Runner-up Nicole Irwin from dance.
“I was worried about the (eight-minute) interview,” Abby said. “I was nervous about that.”
Ashley started to worry, too, and cram when she heard the queries could pertain to current events.
“I got up at 7 o’clock in the morning, watched the news and read the paper,” Ashley admitted. “I learned all about Michigan and Granholm and what she’s doing for the economy. I also learned that a lady won the lottery for over $1 million for the second time in her life. They asked me what I thought Obama’s legacy was going to be and how I felt about the NFL letting Michael Vick back in to play. The girl before me goes, ‘I have no idea who Michael Vick is.’ I called my boyfriend and thanked him for making me watch Sports Center with him all the time.”
Abby has visited the Bahamas and Mackinac Island. In the Bahamas she encountered “scary” beggars.
“That makes me uncomfortable, too,” Ashley agreed. “I toured the Caribbean last year and there was a lot of begging in Jamaica.”
Ashley, daughter of Tina and Gary Solloway, started college studying psychology at Western Michigan University, but ransitioned into nursing, and is now at Southwestern Michigan College.
The judges included Craig Krassow, Janet Mankowksi, Dr. Dan Applegate, Deb Nelson and Elisha (Judy) Messner from Niles, who held the 2002 title. Messner was Apple Festival queen in 1999 and Miss Niles-Brandywine in 2000.