A flair for hair

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Krista Cahill already a cut above

By Greg Summers

Krista Cahill walked across the stage to receive her high school diploma Friday. But unlike her fellow 398 Lancaster High grads, Cahill, 18, has some unfinished business to take care of later this month.

After taking top honors in the hairstyling division at the 2009 Skills USA Trade Competition in Greenville, Cahill will represent South Carolina in the upcoming nationals.

Cahill was one of three local cosmetology students, along with Dustin Allen and Laci Booher, to participate in the state contest, said Jan Williamson, cosmetology instructor at Lancaster High Career Center.

“Since school started on Day 1, the 16 seniors in this class are among the best students I’ve ever had,” Williamson said.

Given that, Williamson was not surprised by Cahill’s showing at the state level. She is the daughter of John and Theresa Cahill.

“Krista has loads of patience, and you can see she is a Christian girl who isn’t afraid to show it, which is rare these days,” Williamson said.

“Krista has a natural knack for noticing how hair falls and how it plays into the overall picture of everything,” Williamson said.

“After the competition, one of the judges said Krista had a higher level of professionalism than you usually see at her age. She also remarked that Krista was one of the most professional students she had seen in several years. We’re proud of her; she always pays attention to her clients and strives to do her very best.”

For the shy and quite Cahill, this was a competition that almost wasn’t.

Somewhat skeptical of entering and a bundle of nerves, Cahill was required to perform three haircuts based on photos, style a formal “up-do” and then sit through an interview, all within five hours.

“The hardest part is dealing with the nerves,” Cahill said. “We got there a little late and I was in a panic because I was already behind.”

Cahill said when several spectators pulled chairs up closely to watch what she was doing, she just about fell apart.

“I cut a finger from nerves,” she said. “I just wanted to get it over with. I really wanted to quit because my hands were shaking so bad. But I stuck it out.”          

Cahill said after the competition, she was sitting in the audience talking to another contestant when the winners were announced.

“I thought at first, they had made a mistake. I was just floored,” she said.

Cahill might be stunned, but LHS assistant principal Kevin Cauthen isn’t.

“Three kinds of students come to the career center,” Cauthen said. “Some come in knowing exactly what they want from a class, while some find themselves at a crossroads. Others just get put in a class that they benefit from. Krista is in that first group and puts extra effort and a great attitude into everything she does academically. She works hard and this is well-deserved. We’re all happy for her.”

Cahill, with Williamson as a chaperone, is headed to Kansas City, Mo., for the national Skills USA Competition on June 21.

“We received almost double the amount that was needed to pay for everything,” Cahill said. “I just want to thank all of those who are helping. I’m very proud to represent the businesses that are sponsoring me and will do my best not to let them down.”

While the national competition is on a larger scale, Cahill said she hopes she won’t be a bundle of nerves this time.

“I kinda know what to expect,” she said.

Until then, she’ll be practicing on the job. Cahill is already working at Studio Image Salon in North Park Square.

“The hard part is pleasing people,” she said. “You want them to like what  you do, but you have to get the right interpretation of what they want. The bottom line is making people happy. You can tell by the smile if they like it.”

This fall, Cahill plans to attend the University of South Carolina at Lancaster to start work on a business degree. That will come in handy if she ever decides to go into business for herself, she said.

“I’ve always wanted to work with people,” Cahill said. “I enjoy the fact that, as a hairstylist, you can use what you know to make people feel good about themselves when they look into the mirror. That makes you feel good about yourself, too.”