One West Virginia University dental student’s passion for music paid off in this year’s Mountaineer Idol final round, held Sunday (Nov. 14) during WVU’s annual Mountaineer Week.

Amanda Hughart, a first-year dental student and native of Big Chimney, was named the winner of this year’s competition. She took home a $1,000 prize from sponsors “American Idol” and Coca-Cola.

“I feel amazing,” Hughart said. “I’ve never done anything like this before, and I’m really proud of myself, as well as the other contestants. I’ve always wanted to pursue music, but for now I’ll be focusing on dentistry.”

During her introductory video before her performance, Hughart said that she would put the prize money towards supplies for dental school.

“My supplies for school are very expensive, and this money will definitely be going towards that,” Hughart said.

There were several guest performers in attendance at the final round, including Holly Hunsberger, a junior chemistry major and 2008 Mountaineer Idol. Hunsberger was also a judge for the evening.

“Amanda did a really great job today, and you can tell that she loves what she’s doing,” Hunsberger said. “She sings from her heart and really connects with the audience.”

Hughart’s fellow competitors for the evening included Dan Whiteman, senior wildlife and fisheries major, who placed second; and Chelsea Malone, freshman general studies major, who placed third.

Another judge for the evening was Sabrina Cave, executive director of the Mountaineer Parents Club, who applauded the outstanding talent of this year’s top three.

“The talent gets better every year and Amanda is wonderful,” Cave said. “It was difficult to choose the winner this year, since all of the students have amazing talent, and a true passion for music.”

The competition started in 2003, making this year’s competition the seventh.

“When we started this competition in 2003, we were thinking it would be a one-time thing,” said Sonja Wilson, Mountaineer Week advisor and senior program administrator of the Mountainlair. “Since then, the student’s enthusiasm has remained, and has really helped form this program into what it is today.”

Cave’s favorite part of the competition is that it is student-driven from start to finish.

“This program continues to evolve from year to year, and it really is because of the hard work of the students,” Cave said. “I love that the students really come together and make this into a great program, and the student hosts continue to do a great job every round.”

The student hosts of the competition were Molly Hott and 2010 Mr. Mountaineer David Slusarick. The judges also included local rapper 6’6” 240, WVU First Lady Beth Clements, Commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History Randall Reid-Smith and Administrative Assistant of Academic Affairs Shirley Robinson.

“I’m so glad I wasn’t a judge, I wouldn’t have been able to choose between these three talented contestants,” Wilson said. “The talent just keeps getting better and better every year, and I’m really proud of them.”

Past winners of the competition include AJ Warne, Samantha Bartlow, Kasey Hott, Carlton Smith and Joshua Jannotta.

To learn more about Mountaineer Week, visit



CONTACT: Sonja Wilson, Mountainlair