Country singer HunterGirl, who has ties to Winchester, Gruetli-Laager, Tennessee, finishes as runner-up on 'American Idol'


Noah Thompson, a 20-year-old construction worker from Louisa, Kentucky, prevailed in the 20th season finale of "American Idol" Sunday night, leaving Tennessee native HunterGirl as runner-up in the ABC reality singing competition.

HunterGirl, whose real name is Hunter Wolkonowski, was born in Gruetli-Laager and raised in Winchester. She now lives in Nashville, where she is pursuing a career as a singer/songwriter.

The other Top 3 finalist, Leah Marlene of Normal, Illinois, was eliminated about halfway through the three-hour show.

HunterGirl's first single, "Red Bird," which she co-wrote with Austin Goodloe and Matt McKinney, is streaming.


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"American Idol" chose its Top 3 finalists last Sunday, and country singer HunterGirl made the cut, which meant that a film crew was in Winchester, Tennessee, last week to film her "hometown visit" for the final show. Viewers can expect to scenes from her alma mater, Franklin County High School, a parade in her honor at the town square and a concert at Twin Creeks Marina and Resort.

This Sunday, she and her fellow contestants - Leah Marlene of Normal, Illinois, and Noah Thompson of Louisa, Kentucky - will deliver their final performances for a chance to earn a record deal with Disney-owned Hollywood Records.

Here are five things to know about HunterGirl as she finds out her fate on the 20th anniversary season of the ABC show.

* About that name: Her real name is Hunter Wolkonowski. Her stage name, HunterGirl, began as a way to identify her among the boys named Hunter at school, according to an interview with her uncle, Grundy County General Sessions Judge William R. "Trey" Anderson III, posted at People began calling her Hunter the Girl, which her maternal grandfather eventually shortened to HunterGirl, Anderson said.

Tune in

— “American Idol” airs its 20th season finale at 8 p.m. EDT Sunday on ABC.— South Jackson Civic Center, 404 S. Jackson St., Tullahoma, Tenn., will host a big-screen watch party. Doors open at 6:15 p.m. CDT.

* Brief bio: She is 23 years old. Her parents are Chris and Urla Wolkonowski. She has a younger sister, Rylan. She was born in Gruetli-Laager, Tennessee, and her family moved to Winchester when she was 11. She earned her college degree at Middle Tennessee State University.

* Musical journey: On her website, HunterGirl says she began singing in her grandfather's church at age 3 and writing songs at age 9. At age 15, she won the 2014 Texaco Country Showdown. After graduating high school, she moved to Nashville and began playing gigs at Tootsie's, Rippy's, Crazy Town, Jason Aldean's Bar, The Listening Room and Honky Tonk Central, among other downtown venues. While in college, she won several songwriting contests, including Nash Next and the National Songwriters Association International two years in a row. She has opened for acts including Old Dominion, Florida Georgia Line, Alan Jackson, Trace Adkins, Charlie Daniels, Sara Evans and Chattanooga native Kane Brown.

* Favorite causes: She channels some of her songwriting energy into Freedom Sings USA and Operation Song, music therapy organizations that pair songwriters with veterans to turn stories of the veterans' military service into songs. She also has been involved with the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veteran Center and Soldier's Child. Her involvement with Freedom Sings has brought her to Chattanooga to work with area veterans.

* "Idol" time: She's drawn high praise from the judges throughout the competition, even earning one of three "platinum tickets" that allowed her to sit out an early round of competition in Hollywood.

However, she's not the favorite to win. According to fan polling on MJ's Big Blog, which keeps up with reality TV, "Idol" diehards think Marlene should win but expect Thompson will win.

- Compiled by staff writer Lisa Denton

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