The 19-year-old walked to the stage stunned, having never imagined she would win the chance to audition for American Idol.
“I wasn’t expecting this,” she told the crowd assembled in Macy’s court at Augusta Mall.
The finalists performed a capella for one minute each. The winner was chosen by a text vote.
Hennecken sang Beyonce’s Smash Into You.
The grand prize was an all-expenses-paid trip to New Orleans to audition for American Idol producers on Tuesday.
Hennecken said she didn’t really have time to build her hopes.
“A week ago I didn’t even know about the competition,” she said. “I sent my recording on Wednesday. I got a response back on Thursday that said, ‘Oh, you’re in the finals.’ And I was surprised about that. And I guess I’m surprised again.”
Unlike some contestants, Hennecken hasn’t spent much time singing. She played sports most of her life, especially basketball, until she tore both of her ACLs and ended up having three knee surgeries last year.
“I couldn’t play sports anymore, so I had to find something else to do,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to pursue music, it’s just I’ve played basketball since I was 8 and I didn’t know I could sing.”
She took a year off from school, took up piano again and starting taking singing lessons last summer. She graduated from Lakeside High School in 2011 and plans to attend New York University in the fall.
She said she’s shy and took a drama class in high school to help her overcome it. Now she sings at assisted-living homes and in front of groups whenever she gets a chance.
She said for Saturday’s audition, she tried to piece together the best parts of the song. She hasn’t decided yet what she’ll sing for the producers.
“I’ll definitely put careful consideration into what song I sing down there, because I’m sure I can probably find something that will help me stand out from a crowd,” Hennecken said.