Dance leads Cochran to Miss Alabama title

Helena native Liz Cochran has danced her way through life.

On June 6, the poise and grace she gained from dancing helped her capture the title of Miss Alabama 2009.

“It’s been a dream of mine since I was 12,” Cochran said. “My ballet teacher Monica Barnett Smith, also taught Heather Whitestone, so I grew up with ‘Home of Miss America 1995’ on the back of my sweatshirt.”

Cochran, 20, also found her way to a platform through dance.

Toward the end of high school, Cochran said she began searching for a cause to get behind. She already knew she was extremely interested in medicine, but that interest was only heightened by the sudden death of her dance instructor Meredith Ward. Ward passed away at 25 from a congenital heart defect known as a Prolonged QT Line.

Cochran immediately began work on her cause “With Every Beat — Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease.”

“Besides the fund-raising I could do with the platform, I realized I could also honor her,” Cochran said.

Cochran now hosts a “With Every Beat” dance showcase at Pelham High School each year. All of the money goes back toward her platform.

Cochran also recently completed work on a children’s book promoting heart health.

“The Quest for a Healthy Heart” focuses on teaching kids in kindergarten through second grade the importance of living healthy lifestyles. It reminds them to eat right, exercise, refrain from smoking and get regular check-ups with their doctor.

Cochran currently studies dance at Birmingham-Southern College. She will spend the next year taking her personal platform and the Miss America Children’s Miracle Network platform across the state.

“I look forward to having the opportunity to serve our state and the chance that gives me to promote both my personal and the national platform of Miss America,” Cochran said.

Placing behind Cochran were Miss North Jefferson County Colene Burns as first runner-up, and second runner-up Susannah Higgins of Calera.

All of the women who placed in the Top 10 will receive scholarships up to $3,500. Cochran, meanwhile, walks away with $10,000 in cash to be used toward her degree.

Cochran replaces fellow Shelby County native Amanda Tapley.

Cochran is also the second Pelham High School graduate to win the Miss Alabama title in the last five years. Deidre Downs won Miss Alabama in 2004 and went on to win Miss America the next year. Cochran will compete for the crown of Miss America early next year. Her parents are Phil and Laura Cochran of Helena.