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Its Mr. Laker time

Ross Clemson captures the 2008 title in a spirited competition at LOHS
by: KRISTEN FORBES, Finalist Zook Gango, left, and Mr. Laker 2008 Ross Clemson, pose while dressed in their “10 Years From Now” outfits. Both men hope to serve in the military – Gango with the Army and Clemson with the Air Force.

'I'm sure they spent many hours rehearsing those very difficult moves,' Lake Oswego High School history teacher April Robinson observed on stage, after 12 seniors performed a dance medley as part of the second annual Mr. Laker Pageant.

Mr. Laker 2008 himself, Ross Clemson, confirmed her quip as truth, noting the dance rehearsals took up more time than the other components of the competition. The entire process - from turning in applications in mid-February to vying for the title in front of a crowd of admirers in the LOHS auditorium on March 19, happened so quickly, he almost forgot to tell his mom.

'My mom found out about a week ago,' Clemson admits. 'She helped with my costume.'

After facing off in formal wear (all the boys donned tuxedos donated by Men's Wearhouse), the participants changed into uniforms that depicted who they wanted to be 10 years from now. Their ambitions ranged from firefighter to fisherman to cowboy to military officer.

Next came the talent portion -where it became evident that while they may have spent only a few weeks preparing for this particular competition, many of the boys had been honing their talents for years. They morphed into dancers, singers, guitarists, cellists, harmonica players, comedians and scooter tricksters. Winner Clemson and finalist Zook Gango teamed up for their talents - Clemson played the piano as Gango read aloud from a short story he wrote.

Clemson and Gango were paired together again for the improvisation competition, in which contestants responded to each other's questions by asking more questions. 'Why don't you love me?' set off the audience's laughter as Gavin Colson and Daniel McNamee battled it out. The laughter continued as Neil Evans desperately tried to make a question out of the words 'running,' 'milk' and 'nose.'

Then came the dance medley, which was an opportunity for the boys to shine as a group and also a distraction while the judges tallied their scores. When the dance routine ended, the three finalists were announced - Clemson, Gango and Trevor Chase.

The three finalists participated in a final question-and-answer session.

'I'm so sorry!' Gango said his response would be if he saw a girl crying in the hallway after being dumped by her boyfriend. 'I'd then give her a big hug and walk her home. Then I'd ask her out,' he continued as the audience chuckled.

Clemson's question was about his biggest regret, to which he responded, 'My biggest regret is not enjoying high school the previous three years. When you think about it: High school rocks!' He noted it was sad to come to this realization in his final academic year.

Chase kept the audience roaring by weaving an elaborate tale about a homeless, naked baby, a semi-truck and a question: 'Get to class on time or save a life?' when asked how he would explain his fourth tardiness in an e-mail to his teacher.

Answering the question he had posed for himself, Chase concluded, 'You know what? I'm all about saving lives.'

'You're a good man, Trevor,' was what he predicted his teacher's response would be.

In the end, Clemson was crowned. When asked to make a speech, he remained humble.

'Everyone up here deserves this and I really appreciate it and thank you.'

With the competition finished, Clemson and Gango rejoined each other onstage and reflected on the event.

'I didn't want to miss this moment,' Clemson said. 'I didn't want to have any regrets.'

Gango said they'd all made the decision to 'have fun and go all out.'

'We weren't worried about the competition,' Clemson added. 'We just did it for fun.'

'Just fun,' organizer Nancy Brown confirmed. The money earned from the event went back into the school's ASB pot. This was strictly a night for entertainment.

Chase, who's been a class officer all four years, hopes to attend James Madison or George Mason University.

Gango, whose interests include photography, writing, reading and music, plans to enlist in the military following graduation.

Clemson is a member of the Oregon Children's Choir and a participant in ASB and football. He is organizing a program to help prevent teenage drinking and driving. He will go through the ROTC program at Oregon State University and hopes to become an officer in the Air Force.

For now, he'll settle for a different title: Mr. Laker 2008.

Kristen Forbes is a freelance writer. To view her blog, visit www.krissymick.blogspot.com .