Idol winner makes history
SEBRING - Eighteen-year-old Mary Hazel Teope made Heartland Idol history Saturday night when the former Junior and Teen Idol winner also claimed first place in the adult competition. No other winner has won all three competitions, said Diana Walker, founder and organizer of the show. Teope, who won Junior Idol in 2005 and Teen Idol in 2008, beat out second-place winner Ashley Elder by just a handful of points. Third place went to Lindsey Sears, fourth to Gary Johnson, and fifth to Adam Meredith.Contestants sang two songs, one of the Heartland Idol board’s choosing and the other of their own. For Teope, the board chose “When You Believe” by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, testing her range. “We were moving mountains long before we knew we could,” sang Teope in a breathy voice. She elicited spontaneous applause from the audience at one point in the song and ended on a sensational note that brought the audience to its feet. Judge Larry Moore called her voice “angelic” and judge Jim Johnson said, “I’m speechless,” adding, “I’ve worked with a lot of professional singers. You have as good a voice control as anyone.” During the song she chose, which was “Listen” by Beyonce, a couple of technical glitches with the music didn’t throw her off her game. The audience burst into spontaneous applause three times and gave her another standing ovation. Nevertheless, it wasn’t an easy choice for judges whose comments showed they were wowed by contestant after contestant in a string of performances that impressed even tough judge Melanie Boulay. Second-place winner Ashley Elder impressed Boulay with her obvious comfort level onstage. She had a smile on her face as she sang Miranda Lambert’s “The House that Built Me” in a flowing, burgundy coat. “It was beautiful, simply beautiful!” gushed Moore. For her own choice, Elder sang “Right to Be Wrong” by Joss Stone, an upbeat song that matched her fun-loving attitude. “You look at home up there, so comfortable. You are an entertainer,” judge Nelly Ford complimented her. Third-place winner Lindsey Sears incorporated a photo slideshow from her life as she sang Beyonce’s “I Was Here.” But it was her second performance of Etta James’ “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” that really impressed the judges. In a fun, lighthearted style, she danced with a chair wearing an apron and swinging her ponytail. “You brought energy,” remarked Johnson. “You looked like a movie star.” Fourth-place winner Johnson, a seasoned performer, touched the audience and judges with a heartfelt delivery of “Amazed” by Lonestar, dedicated to his wife Jackie. Toe tapping in cowboy boots and his deep, rich voice earned him the word “magnificent” from Moore. Fifth-place winner Adam Meredith has a future in Broadway, according to Moore. He earned a standing ovation for his rendition of “House of the Rising Sun.” “Any stage would be privileged to have you perform on it,” said Moore. “You should seriously consider performing on Broadway.” “This is the one performance of the night that brought tears to eyes and sent shivers down my spine!” wrote Tracy Fin on the Heartland Idol Facebook page. Teope won $2,000, Elder took home $1,000 and Sears won $500 this final night of Heartland Idol. Photos and video of the event are available through the Heartland Idol Facebook page.