Champion in a Dress and a Black Belt

By Beacon Staff

Miss Teen Montana has a mean roundhouse kick.

This doesn’t help her much in beauty pageants, but when she’s fighting in national taekwondo tournaments against the country’s best junior black belts, it comes in handy.

Lindsey Meade, who holds a second-degree black belt, is a stereotype breaker. The 17-year-old beauty queen from Condon is ranked No. 3 in the nation in her division for taekwondo, has a 4.0 GPA at Seeley-Swan High School and talks about shoes as comfortably as she talks about punching.

Lindsey Meade is not only the current Miss Teen Montana but is a second-degree black belt in taekwondo.

“I can wear a dress and kick your butt at the same time,” she said, joking slightly.

At the end of May, Meade won the Miss Teen Montana beauty pageant and qualified for Miss Teen U.S.A. in July in Las Vegas. But before that, she has some business to attend to on the mat. She is in Madison, Wisc., this week fighting for a chance to go to the U.S. national taekwondo team trials in Fort Lauderdale.

This spring she finished third at the national team trials after finishing second in a regional tournament in Colorado. She is the reigning Montana state champion. To earn a spot on the national team, she has to win her division at Fort Lauderdale, if she makes it there.

Making it on the national team would be one step closer to her ultimate goal: the 2012 Olympics.

“If I can make the (national) team and prove myself as an athlete,” she said, “I think I’ll be able to make the 2012 team.”

Meade began taekwondo when she was 5 years old in Pennsylvania after her older sister had started. Over the next dozen years, the rest of the females in the family took up the sport as well. Jill, the mother, is a second-degree black belt like Lindsey, while 11-year-old Cassidy is nearing her black belt status and the youngest, 9-year-old Stevi, is already a blue belt. Megan, the eldest sister, retired several years ago and the father, Michael, never started.

Jill said from the moment Lindsey joined taekwondo as a 5-year-old, it was clear she was a natural.

“From then on out she’s been kicking everything,” Jill said. “She would kick the refrigerator, whatever.”

When Lindsey was 6 years old, she entered her first tournament, Jill said. She dominated, easily defeating an unsuspecting male opponent who had a three-belt classification advantage.

Cassidy Meade, right, sits on the ground near he older sister Lindsey Meade, center, who jokes around with Joe Moonen while changing out of their pads after practice at Big Sky Martial Arts.

“She literally wiped up the mat with this boy,” Jill said.

Though Meade has fought for 12 years, it wasn’t until her family moved from Pennsylvania to Montana and she began training at Kalispell’s Big Sky Martial Arts (BSMA) that she evolved from a skilled recreational hobbyist to an elite fighter. Both Meade and her mother credit her two coaches, John Paul Noyes and his wife Debbie.

The Noyeses deflect much of the credit to the first-class program that BSMA is known for, along with the formidable team it has built. The BSMA team is a traveling squad that competes statewide and trains together weekly. Meade’s training partners, such as Kendra Hedges, are often top-notch fighters in their own right. She also spars against boys frequently.

John Paul has trained a number of superior fighters over the years, but of the girls, he said Lindsey is the best. She’s “a very tenacious young lady,” he said, “and tough.” If she’s on top of her game, he said she’s very tough to beat.

“If her head is in it, she’s fine,” he said. “Winning and losing in taekwondo is a razor’s edge. If you’re not tuned in, it’s not going to happen.”

Meade trains four or five days a week at BSMA, driving nearly two hours round-trip from Condon. She usually totes her younger sisters along. But Meade’s discipline doesn’t stop when she leaves the gym – she said John Paul’s motto is “live, eat, sleep and breathe” taekwondo. So she carefully monitors her everyday habits, especially eating. She keeps a daily food log, cutting down on sugars and watching her carbohydrates, though she said coming from a family full of cooks doesn’t always help her cause.

Yet, she’s still a teenage girl.

“I like shoes and just hanging around with friends,” she said. “But I’m such a busy girl that I don’t get many chances to sit around and watch a movie.”

With the 2012 Olympics far away, Meade has time to focus on more immediate tasks like her senior year in high school and obtaining her third-degree black belt status. Each requires plenty of paperwork and testing. To advance in degrees, Meade will have to write a 10-page essay about her experiences in taekwondo, take a pre-test that involves elements of multiple martial arts and then take a final test in front of six judges.

Lindsey Meade, center, is reflected in one of the many mirrors while running through a form with a taekwondo class at Big Sky Martial Arts in Kalispell.

At the Las Vegas pageant, Meade will emphasize her anti-bullying platform. With her platform, she has found a way to tie together pageantry and taekwondo. Learn taekwondo, she said, and you’ll be amply equipped to deal with bullies.

“I feel like the next Miss Congeniality,” she said.

If Meade doesn’t make the national team this year, she will have another shot next year, but in the senior division instead of the junior division. John Paul said this could be her year. If she makes the national team, she then qualifies to travel to highly competitive tournaments around the world, honing her into an even better fighter, he said.

“If she can get on the U.S. national team, what can’t she do?” he said.