Mr. South Whidbey 2004

Interview spelling dog: Check.

Meet half the Gabeleins listed in the phone book: Check.

Cover the oddly named Choochokam summer arts festival: Check.

Show a day at work from a dog’s perspective: Check.

Watch high school boys strut around like Tarzan? Listen to them talk of their hopes, dreams, aspirations and whether they like long walks on the beach? Check.

I think it’s now safe to say — I’ve seen it all.

Last month I followed two young Whidbey women backstage at the Miss Washington USA Pageant. On Wednesday night, I followed the hopes, dreams, and somewhat scary talents of two dozen young men on the quest to be crowned Mr. South Whidbey.

In it’s third year, the Mr. South Whidbey pageant was open to any male student at South Whidbey High School. The guys competed in talent, evening wear, interview, and in this year’s themed jungle wear.

“It’s just a fun way to get the guys involved in their school and boost school spirit,” said junior leadership student Kelly Schorr, organizer of this year’s event.

Prizes at stake included baskets full of give-aways from island businesses, and for the winner — a paper crown and the title of Mr. South Whidbey.

When talking to the contestants, the most difficult thing to judge was their seriousness. They told of long preparation by watching their diets, practicing their talents for hours on end, and gathering information to prepare for the interview portion of the competition.

“You’ve got to eat right. A low-carb diet with lots of protein is a must,” junior Dane Guetlin said.

Then comes the devilish smile, quickly hidden but caught too late. The evening was one giant tongue-in-cheek indulgence.

It was Guetlin’s third run at the Mr. South Whidbey crown. Claiming he “loved the thrill of standing in front of the school and showcasing his talent,” Guetlin seemed sure of his chances before the competition.

“My goal is to win this year, ” he said.

The Mr. South Whidbey contestants brought their own definition of the word talent. I witnessed an interesting and pretty disgusting way to make a mocha. Jeff Strong’s interpretive poem/song proved that high school boys really do know about the world around them and have the ability to make light of it. Thanks to one contestant I learned the three worst jokes I will never tell. Kyle McGillen proved white men can jump by leap frogging over Mike Moore while Moore was both standing on the ground and on a chair. Dane Guetlin cracked the audience up when he and his posse of back-up dancers rapped in Spanish, and Jeff Hanson gave the audience a new appreciation for toast.

The night also made it clear that the guitar has become a high school boy uniform staple and guaranteed tool to win the hearts of the ladies. (I’ll admit, and millions of American Idol fans will too, there’s something about a guy who can sing.)

At one point in the show, freshman Paul Saelens showed off his ability to cook cheeseburgers on a George Foreman grill. In this all-male revue, it made a statement of “Hey, we’re high school guys this is what we’re about.” Some things are never proven wrong — such as guys making cheeseburgers as a claim to “talent”. But the power of cheeseburgers was surprisingly strong. Other contestants were allowed to show their talents while the burgers cooked, and during a not so rousing poem about socks read by junior Luke Palmeroy, chants of “Ham-bur-ger, ham-bur-ger...” could be heard.

Then came the interviews. Some of the questions let the guys off better than others. Some put them on the spot with no place to hide. Case in point — poor Paul Saelens. I’m pretty sure no other contestant would have wanted the question he received: “So, which one of your hosts would you rather date — Katy McGillen or Chelsea Miller?”

A roar of laughter ensued. Saelens blushed bright red. The only contestant who would have been safe from this question would have been Kyle McGillen, since one of the choices was his twin sister.

Saelens handled the situation well, fumbling some then saying both choices were beautiful women.

When asked “What annoys you most about women, and why?” Mike Moore couldn’t help but ask if there was a time limit. After stumbling around for a response, his answer of “That they don’t like me enough,” drew sympathetic “ahhhhhs” from the mostly female audience.

If Hing Potter was the high school principal, he’d pay teachers and staff more because, as he said, “They’re the chug-a-chug-a in this choo-choo.”

At the end, the outcome was as predicted, at least by one contestant. When all of the scores were tallied and the drum roll stopped, Dane Guetlin walked away with the crown.

First-time competitor Ben Simmons claimed first runner-up, while break dancing Oliver Shafaat shuffled into second runner-up. Jeff Strong held onto third runner-up for the second year in a row.

Strong felt bad more for his fellow competitors.

“Some guys really worked hard,” he said. “You’ve got to be click-click bang-bang up there and need to come prepared.”

He wasn’t surprised by Guetlin’s win.

“He talked to the judges and made it known that he cared for them individually,” he said. “It’s totally legal — you’re supposed to bribe them.”

Kay Wild, the school’s career specialist and one of the pageant judges, said she and her colleagues received flattery, flowers and chocolate from more than one contestant.

Previous Mr. South Whidbey titleholders include Scott Perkins in 2002 and Zach Taylor in 2003. Both were graduating seniors. Guetlin’s junior status and a runners-up list filled predominantly by underclassman is seen as a positive turn of events, according to leadership teacher Janet Hunter.

“It’s nice to see the underclassmen have their chance,” she said.

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