The hallways at Parkland High School were livelier than usual Saturday night.
Girls floated through the lobby in formalwear, a group of sophomores sported homemade t-shirts, and senior boys in cut-off jeans and neon ties crowded the auditorium dressing room.
It might sound peculiar, but for the students and faculty at PHS, it was another year of the Mr. Parkland competition.
The competition, in its 15th year, is an opportunity for one senior to represent the school at sporting events, theater performances and any other functions that require such representation.
At night's end, senior Ben Mays took home the title of Mr. Parkland 2011.
Dave Cecchini and Connor Tench were first and second runners-up, respectively.
To be considered for Mr. Parkland, each contestant was required to be a senior in good academic standing and a positive role model for students.
“We have to represent Parkland and be the face of the school; that’s our main job. As a school, we’re a family, and we need to represent our family with pride,” said Michael Soden, one of the competitors.
This year, 17 students made the cut from the 30 applicants. Those chosen began training for Saturday night’s performance almost immediately.
Under the direction of choreographer Kristen Smith, the boys learned three group dances, which were performed during the opening number. A swimsuit competition and a formal wear competition were also required.
In addition, each contestant performed a five-minute talent showcase. The large audience was treated to everything from an Elvis impersonation to a martial arts demonstration.
In the final leg, the judges tallied their scores for the top five contestants. Jacob Evans, Dave Cecchini, Ben Mays, Dave Palumbo and Connor Tench took part in an interview session where they all had to answer the same question: who has had the most positive influence on you at Parkland High School?
Answers ranged from siblings to math teachers, but each answer echoed the pride that the contestants had in their school and its students and faculty.
Although 14 contestants went home empty-handed, there were no hard feelings, and all of the contestants agreed that the pageant’s purpose went much deeper than electing a student representative.
“The best part about all of this has been getting to know this great group of people. As the practices went on, we all stopped caring about winning and started caring more about each other,” said Mitchell Goldstein.
“This means a lot to me,” said Cecchini. “We all came into this not really knowing each other and now we’re a family. All of the guys that were chosen for this, I can safely say, are now some of my closest friends.”