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'Outstanding Teen' will vie for national crown next month

Some kids spend their summers relaxing and recharging before another school year hits.

But Katarina Akridge is not just some kid. She's Miss Minnesota's Outstanding Teen.

Akridge won the title in June after competing against one dozen other girls from across the state in a scholarship pageant affiliated with the Miss America organization. The East Ridge High School junior will now compete for the title of Miss America's Outstanding Teen next month in Orlando. That means she will be plenty busy over the next several weeks preparing for competition she admits she's dreamed of since she was a "little girl."

"It's such a big deal for me to be even competing at this level," Akridge said. "You always say you want to be Miss America, but you never think you will actually have a chance to be in that position."

Akridge won the state title for her age level on June 16 at the Anoka Ramsey Community College. The Miss Outstanding Teen competition judges contestants in five categories including personal interview, lifestyle and fitness, evening wear and an onstage question. Academics also play a role in the state and national competitions.

Akridge believes her talent portion of the competition helped put her over the top at the state pageant. A lifelong dancer and member of the East Ridge varsity dance team, Akridge performed a Bollywood jazz rendition to the tune "Jai Ho," a song on the soundtrack for the 2008 film "Slumdog Millionaire."

"It's a pretty high energy song, so it took a lot of physical and mental preparation," she said. "I think it's one of the hardest dances I've ever done, which made it the most nerve-wracking part of the competition for me."

The complete story is available in the Wednesday, June 21 print edition of the Woodbury Bulletin.