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Two strut and tap to pageant crowns

Shilah Goodwin crept on stage Friday with the stealth of a cat _ a stray cat.

Donning the stripes of an orange tiger cat, complete with makeup and a tail, Goodwin performed a character dance to the Stray Cat Strut in a costume reminiscent of the theatrical blockbuster Cats.

The performance garnered the title of Miss Teen Citrus 2003 for the 17-year-old homeschooled junior during the Miss Teen Citrus pageant sponsored by the Citrus County Fair Association.

It was an emotional win for Goodwin.

"I had a good friend die this past year. . . . It broke my heart knowing he wouldn't be here tonight," Goodwin said.

"I went to the grave today (Friday). And asked him to look over me tonight," she said.

Goodwin watched the movie version of Cats for her costume ideas. But her true inspiration came from her own four cats, she said.

"I observed them. Each has its own personality," Goodwin said.

Combining their personalities with her own performance magic, she pounced upon the Miss Teen 2003 crown and $1,500 in scholarship money.

In the Miss Teen pageant, the Miss Congeniality award went to Shandi Huffman.

Fourth runnerup Farrah Muller won a $300 scholarship. Third runnerup Mariah Roberts received a $500 scholarship. Second runnerup Jessica McBride got a $700 scholarship. First runnerup Stephanie Wood won a $1,000 scholarship.

Also chosen this weekend was Miss Citrus. On Saturday evening Ashley Surkamer's tik-a-tik-a-tik, tappity-tappity-tap spoke to the judges, who named her winner of the Miss Citrus 2003 scholarship pageant. Surkamer, 18, performed a tap routine to Speaking in Tongues.

This is not the first time Surkamer has worn the queen's crown. In 2001 she performed a routine in which she raised her right leg tightly parallel to her body with her toes pointed to the roof, drawing gasps from the audience and winning her the Miss Teen Citrus 2001 tiara.

Her flexibility comes from dancing five days a week atDanceEtc, where she also teaches.

Surkamer didn't take this win for granted.

"During my interview, I wasn't relaxed at all," she said. The five-minute interview part of the competition gives the judges the opportunity to interact one-on-one with each contestant and counts for 40 percent of the contestant's final score.

Talent counts for 30 percent, and swimsuit and evening gown competitions count for 15 percent each.

A freshman at Central Florida Community College, Surkamer is working toward a degree in business management. It should serve her well when she eventually achieves her dream of owning her own dance studio.

The evening was filled with boisterous cheering for all of the contestants.

Looking into the darkened auditorium, Surkamer said, she was encouraged by knowing her family was there rooting for her. "If I couldn't see them, I could hear them."

Jennifer Arnold was awarded the title of Miss Congeniality by her peers in the pageant, sponsored by the Citrus County Fair Association.

In a tie for fourth runnerup, Tammi Robinson and Jennifer Arnold were each awarded $300 in scholarship funds. Third runnerup Stephani Fohrman received a $500 scholarship. Second runnerup Ellen King got a $700 scholarship. First runnerup Leilani Otero received a $1,000 scholarship.

Ashley Surkamer, right, a former Miss Teen Citrus, won the Miss Citrus 2003 crown after tap-dancing to Speaking in Tongues on Saturday night. Shilah Goodwin, left, a homeschooled junior, won the Miss Teen Citrus 2003 crown after she performed a character dance to the Stray Cat Strut in a costume reminiscent of the theatrical blockbuster Cats.