On a cold, rainy night in late August, West Virginia University student Marci Lane camps out in front of New Yorks Jacob Javits Center.

Shes not alone. By midnight, 12,000 people have shown up with the dream of becoming the next Kelly Clarkson or Ruben Studdard.

For as long as she can remember, Lane, a sophomore public relations major from Nitro, has always wanted to be a superstar. When she was eight years old, she would perform mock concerts in her basement. At nine, she belted out Mariah CareysHeroand won her first karaoke contest.

So, when auditions rolled around for the third season of Foxs popular reality TV show,American Idol,her best friend thought shed be a shoe-in.

He had been trying to get me to try out since the first season. Finally, this year, he pretty much just told me we were going to try out without asking,she said.

Lanes shot at stardom began Aug. 25 when she headed to the Big Apple. She waited in line for 19 hours for a chance to audition.

We got in line near the end at 8 p.m. the night before tryouts. I was wearing a tank top and skirt and then it got cold. It started raining. We got no sleep. It was miserable and in the morning, it was just more waiting. They would move you in groups from room to room like cattle. Then you only had a good 30 seconds to prove yourself,Lane said.

She performed Simon and Garfunkels classic,Bridge Over Troubled Waters,the same song that helped catapult second-seasonIdolrunner-up, Clay Aiken, to fame.

The audition was scary. I started with the last verse of �€~Bridgeand the producer cut me off before I could hit my strong note and asked if I had anything else I could sing. I was really nervous. I didnt have another song so I said, �€~No, but you can let me finish this song.And she did and the rest is history,she said.

After impressing the shows executive producers, Lane went face-to-face with Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson. She said its an experience she will never forget.

Simon was surprisingly nice. He immediately said I looked like a singing Goldie Hawn. After I sang, he said, �€~That is a very tough song to sing and I would have to say you are one of the best people Ive ever heard sing it,and then they all told me I was going to Hollywood.

Out of 80,000 people who tried out for the latest edition ofAmerican Idol,Lane was one of only 117 people who made it to round two of the auditions and the first West Virginian to advance that far in the contest. In Hollywood, Lane said she learned about how the entertainment industry works. When she wasnt rehearsing, cameras would follow her around even while she was brushing her teeth and wearing pajamas.

She performed Bonnie RaitsLove SneakinUp On Youin front of the other contestants. But it was the second audition in L.A. that was her undoing. At the end of the day, Lane said the contestants were told to make up a song and thats when things hit a sour note.

They gave us a list of 10 song titles they had made up. That evening we had to make up a verse and a chorus, memorize and sing it a capella in front of everyone the next day. It was rough,she admitted.The judges, I would say, were pretty much fair, but I dont exactly agree that I wasnt put through. Out of 117 performers, I was the 111th to perform both days. It wasnt exactly good placement after such long days of auditioning.

Although Lane was cut the second day of auditions, she said she enjoyed herself and gained a lot of valuable experience.

I learned that the entertainment industry is brutal and that everyone seems to have the same dreams as I do. Its tough competition. But this experience has also made me more confident. I feel like I really accomplished something.

Lane wasnt shown on last weeks broadcast of the New York tryouts, but her audition could be shown on the Hollywood episode.

As for otherIdolwannabes, she said,My advice to others is if you want something, go for it. I would never have made the initiative to go to New York City and try out if my best friend hadnt pushed me. And you know what? I made it so far. From this experience, Ive made contacts, talked to producers and Im recording my first demo.