Forget the blue ribbon for the best pie. A Hilton Head Island second grader won a $35,000 prize Thursday for creating a specialty sandwich.
Mallory Russell, 8, turned to her favorite foods -- "Thai, Mexican and, of course, peanut butter" -- for inspiration in creating her P-Nutty BBQ Chicken Quesadilla. The sandwich won the grand prize in the 10th annual JIF Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest in New York City. Her cheese, vegetable and chicken quesadilla is smeared with peanut butter, barbecue sauce and lime juice.
The prize money is earmarked for college, and her father, Chris, said he'll put it into a fund so it will grown between now and the day Mallory heads off to college. Right now, Mallory wants to be a veterinarian. The prize will really help down the road when it's time to pay for Mallory's and twin brother Lathan's tuition, Chris said.
Mallory's classmates at Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts got to try the sandwich two weeks ago, and she said most of them said "yum," although one didn't like Thai and some weren't fans of peanut butter with their vegetables. She called her taste testers via speakerphone after winning the contest.
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"Good news," she shouted, "I'm going to college!"
Mallory's recipe was selected from student submissions from across the country. Judges narrowed the choices to 10 semifinalists. Judges' scores were combined with online votes to select five finalists, who made their dishes at the final event in New York on Thursday.
She won a $25,000 college fund and $10,000 for books and school supplies. Runners-up won $2,500 college funds, and all 10 semi-finalists received JIF peanut butter gift baskets.
Mallory's sandwich beat out:
Beaufort County Schools Superintendent Valerie Truesdale caught Mallory's guest appearance on NBC's Today Show on Wednesday.
"We're so proud of Mallory," Truesdale said in a news release. "It's always exciting to see one of our students recognized for her creativity and hard work."
JIF paid for Mallory and her dad to go to New York for the final, and her mom and brother came along as well.
Mom Tonya was overwhelmed by the news.
"It's been crazy," she said. "I still can't even believe it. It's just so exciting. The whole thing has just been, I have no words. I am speechless for the first time in my life."