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Ashland coed named Miss Rogue Valley

, a 19-year-old college sophomore who believes in the importance of volunteer work, is the new Miss Rogue Valley.

The Ashland resident was crowned at the conclusion of the 44th annual Miss Rogue Valley Scholarship Pageant Saturday night at Medford's Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater.

She's a daughter of David and Shannon Gerten and studies at Southern Oregon University where she is majoring in psychology with a minor in criminology. Promoting Volunteerism is her platform.

First runner-up was Melissa Ashley Thompson, 19, of Medford, a freshman at Rogue Community College.

Bessieann Bailey, 18, of Central Point, a senior at Cascade Christian High, was second runner-up, and Sarah Blodgett, 18, of Medford, also a Cascade senior, was named third runner-up.

— Thompson also won the interview award. Blodgett took the talent award as well as being voted Miss Congeniality.

Kelsey Weaver, 17, of Medford, a South Medford High School senior, won the growth award, given for personal growth during the pageant rehearsals and finale.

Miss Rogue Valley wins a &

36;1500 college scholarship. First runner-up gets &

36;1000, second runner-up &

36;800 and third runner-up &

36;700. The talent and interview awards are each worth another &

36;500, growth &

36;150 and congeniality &

36;100.

Miss Rogue Valley also goes on to compete in the Miss Oregon Pageant in July, and that winner becomes a contestant in the Miss America Pageant.

A panel of five judges interviewed each contestant for about 10 minutes, earlier in the day. Interview scores accounted for 35 percent of the total, with talent also counting 35 percent.

Evening gown, fitness (swimsuit) and answering an on-stage question each accounted for 10 percent of each overall score.

For her talent number Gerten sang Happily Ever After from the musical Once Upon a Mattress. The new Miss Rogue Valley has received several modeling awards and acted on television and in movies.

Blodgett's award-winning talent performance was an exhibition of stylish classical ballet.

Growth award winner Weaver sang You Were Meant For Me.

Three contestants sang, two danced, one played the piano, another the flute and the other three spoke about such subjects as feeding the world's hungry children, clay sculpture and a humorous one on the fine points of softball.

Each contestant has a platform, and these range from the importance of reading to children to promoting historic preservation, also promoting physical fitness and speaking skills in schools.

Garth and Rosemary Harrington, local radio talk show hosts, served as emcees of this year's pageant.

The Miss Rogue Valley Pageant began in 1963, also the initial year of the Britt Festivals in Jacksonville.

While no Miss Rogue Valley has yet become Miss America, some have come very close. The first Miss Rogue Valley back in 1963, Marty Wyatt, became Miss Oregon and placed in the top 10 at Atlantic City.

In more recent years, Tricia Leines was Miss Oregon made it all the way to second runner-up at Miss America.

Aspen Gerten