Distinguished Young Woman of York County winner Caitlin Reeser performs with her baton at Saturday night s competition.
Distinguished Young Woman of York County winner Caitlin Reeser performs with her baton at Saturday night s competition. (Submitted photo)

Caitlin Reeser couldn't believe it.

But it was true. The 16-year-old heard her name called when she was crowned York County's Distinguished Young Woman of 2013 on Saturday night.

"My heart was beating so fast. It kind of didn't hit me," she said. "My feet did the walking for me."

The program awarded $35,000 in scholarships to local high school girls who excel both inside and outside the classroom. The scholarships are paid directly to colleges after the student is admitted, she said.

Caitlin, a Central York High School junior, won both the grand prize - a $12,000 higher education scholarship - and the $400 fitness award scholarship.

She's been twirling baton since she was 4, and as a two-time national champion, she showed off her skills at the talent portion of the event.

She volunteers for Make-A-Wish and the Polar Bear Plunge, is part of the Spanish National Honor Society and cheers both competitively and for Central's football and basketball teams.

Caitlin, of Manchester Township, is the daughter of Karen and Scott Reeser.

The distinguished honor roll student said she has her eye on the University of Pittsburgh. But if she decides to attend York College, another $18,000 will be tacked onto her scholarship.

Central York High School hosted the 48th annual event this year as 28 contestants competed on stage for scholarships. It was a full house, with more than 1,200 people in attendance. Caitlin said she was pleasantly surprised by her school's support.

"I didn't realize how many people from Central were actually there," she said. "It was good to represent Central."

She said she's been watching the competitions since she was little. And in her future role as the county's Distinguished Young Woman, she said, she will be encouraging girls to be their best selves and try as hard as they can.

She had kind words for the other contestants.

"It's such a great experience to see so many people grow," she said. "You're amongst girls who are so intelligent and so talented."

Caitlin will get the chance to earn more scholarship money at the state competition in August.

The program: Up until two years ago, the program was known as York County Junior Miss.

Not to be confused with a beauty pageant, Distinguished Young Women rewards high schoolers for their achievements in academics, talent, self-expression and fitness. And no, there is no swimsuit competition, said Lyn Bergdoll, the program's chair.

The county's program gives one of the largest scholarship pools for young women in the country, she said.

"When you see that in young people, that really gives you a lot of hope," Bergdoll said. "It makes you feel good about our community."

The winners:

Distinguished Young Woman for 2013: Caitlin Reeser, Central York; $12,000

First runner-up: Anna Podgorodnyaya, Northeastern; $5,000

Second runner-up: Rachel Yinger, Dover; $4,000

Finalists: Morgan Strathmeyer, West York; Abagayle Copp, Northeastern; Elizabeth Gilliland, Central York; Olivia Purtell, West York; $2,000 each

Spirit Award: Emily Gibbs, Northeastern; $200

Be Your Best Self Award: Emily Gibbs, Northeastern; $500

Self Expression Award: Abagayle Copp and Anna Podgorodnyaya, Northeastern; $400 each

Fitness Award: Morgan Strathmeyer, West York; Caitlin Reeser, Central York; $400 each

Talent Award: Rachel Yinger, Dover; Megan Cintron, West York; $400 each

Scholastics Award: Olivia Purtell, West York; Elena Ream, Central York; $900 each

Interview Award: Elizabeth Gilliland, Central York; $1,000

Every contestant who was not in the top seven earned a $100 scholarship.

- Reach Mollie Durkin at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.