Molly#039;s time to shine

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 14, 2004

While her classmates are getting back into the rhythm of school after a long winter break, Opp native Molly Grimes is fine-tuning her own rhythm at the Alabama Junior Miss scholarship program in Montgomery. Grimes, the daughter of Johnny and Sally Grimes, was named the Covington County Junior Miss in July.

For her talent, she exhibited an acrobat's agility and a dancer's grace with a tumbling routine that also won her first place in that category. A senior and a member of the Opp High School's award-winning cheerleading squad, she recently won first place in the WCA cheerleading tumbling competition.

"Molly is a great girl and fun to be with for the other 55 contestants and the volunteers associated with the program," said

Terry Ballant, director of public relations for Alabama's Junior Miss. "Her smile lights up the rehearsals!"

The actual program doesn't start until Friday at 7:30 p.m., with competition continuing through Saturday, but the young women have been in Montgomery all week, getting to know each other, practice their routines and performances, and acting as goodwill ambassadors within the community by visiting schools.

"We are not able to talk to her directly," said her mother, Sally. "I have talked with her host mom and she said things are going well. It's been a real full week for her. They've gone to the zoo today (Wednesday)."

The Grimes have caught a few glimpses of Molly - Number 43 on the Alabama Junior Miss program - on the Montgomery TV news broadcasts, and they will be thinking of her this morning.

"She's the very first interview," said Sally.

On Friday, Molly will meet the judges for the poise and fitness categories, and at 1 p.m. Saturday, she will perform her talent. The finals will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday night. Saturday holds another treat for her parents - they'll get to see their daughter again.

"Saturday morning, they have something for the parents," said Sally. "We'll get to see her again."

The separation has been a little tough for Sally.

"It's hard no being able to talk to her -- we're real close," she said. "But she's been so excited and we've been excited for her."

Community support for Molly - as well as for the Junior Miss program overall - has been strong.

"Everybody has been so sweet everywhere," said Sally. "All the directors of the Covington County Junior Miss should be commended for the wonderful program they have. Talking to other parents (from other areas), it makes me real proud that our county supports it so well. We've had so much help, it's really been nice."

The state program will be held

at the Montgomery Civic Center. Young women from almost every county in Alabama will compete for the title of Alabama's Junior Miss and a share of more than $50,000 in cash scholarships and over $2 million in college-granted scholarships. During the past 46 years, AJM has awarded scholarships totaling $83.6 million

to girls across the nation. Past participants include Diane Sawyer of ABC News, Deborah Norville of

Inside Edition and Debra Messing, co-star of NBC's Will & Grace.

The scholarship aspect of the program is the most important, along with judging criteria that separate Junior Miss programs from pageants, where the girls are judged mostly on appearances.

Those 56 young women were being evaluated before they even arrived in Montgomery. Each member of the

Scholastics Evaluation Panel is sent a copy of each contestant's high school academic record. After reviewing the records, each judge scores

each contestant using a 1-to-10 point scale. Each scholastics judge also

provides a 1-to-50 ranking of the contestants.

The categories the girls are judged in include: scholastics (20 percent of overall score); the interview (25 percent of overall score); talent (25 percent of overall score); fitness (15 percent of overall score); and poise (15 percent of overall score).

After all competition is complete, the total weighted score for each contestant is tabulated. The Judges Panel determines during a monitored

discussion which of the highest scoring contestants will be named to compete for the title of Alabama's Junior Miss.

The same procedure is used during the final night of competition to

determine who will be named America's Junior Miss, First Runner-up, Second

Runner-up and Third Runner up from among the finalists.

Other county representatives form this area competing this year are Geneva County's Junior Miss, Jessica Eberhard from Newton;

Crenshaw County's Junior Miss, Courtney Green from Luverne;

Escambia County's Junior Miss, Jamie Peacock from Brewton; Coffee County's Junior Miss, Mary Kathryn Rhyne from Enterprise; Pike County's Junior Miss, Tara Rodgers from Troy;

The Alabama state chairman for 2003 is Bruce Triftshauser. Triftshauser has been involved with Alabama's Junior Miss for more than 20 years. This will be his eighth year serving as state chairman.

The America's Junior Miss program was founded in 1957 and is the oldest and largest scholarship program for high school senior girls. Over 700,000 young women have competed at the local, state and national levels.

Tickets are available for the preliminaries and the final night of competition. Please call (334) 244-9066 for more information.