SYRACUSE — Wawasee Middle School was abuzz with lights, cameras and hairspray Saturday, Jan. 16. Young women from across the county and the surrounding ones got all dolled up to compete in a scholarship pageant that has plenty of history in Kosciusko County.
Six young women were competing for the title of Miss Kosciusko County, while seven teenage contestants were vying for the title of Miss Outstanding Teen. Three small Miss Kosciusko Princesses were also crowned in the ceremony.
After all the contest portions had ended, judges turned in their final scores to be tallied. Sierra Updike was crowned as Miss Kosciusko County 2016, with Katelin Vogel coming in as first runner-up. Second runner-up was awarded to Jenna Schmidt. Updike was awarded a $750 scholarship, plus a $250 gift certificate to Ashley Rene’s shop.
In the Miss Outstanding Teen 2016 competition, Emma Tarkington took the crown. Outstanding Teen first runner-up was awarded to Anastasia Keller, while Delaney Jackson was awarded second runner-up. Tarkington was awarded a scholarship for $75, plus a $100 gift certificate for Ashley Rene’s store.
Emcee James Velez took to the stage to introduce the contestants, who wowed the audience with a quick dance routine followed by individual introductions. The young ladies shared their goals for the awareness raised by their platforms — things like autism awareness, the fight against breast cancer and the abilities of those with mental disabilities were a few of the worthy causes on the girls’ minds.
Velez introduced the panel of judges, made up of Carmen Smith, Jan Roscoe, Quinn Porter, Sherri Kennedy and Melissa Schenkel. Each woman was judged on a one to ten point scale and tallied by three other helpers. Different categories had varying percentages of worth for the total score.
The three princesses, Kate Strieby, Laney Neuenschwander and Cierra Weisser each shared a talent with the panel of judges and a captivated audience.
The teen contestants, comprised of Sophia Wilhite, Josie Armstrong, Kristen Smith, Delaney Jackson, Shelby Kern, Emma Tarkington and Anastasia Keller, showed off their fit lifestyles in their first debut portion, activewear. This category shows the healthy benefits of a fit and active lifestyle.
The young women competing for the Miss Kosciusko title displayed their active lifestyles in the swimsuit portion. Jenna Schmidt, Siera Updike, Katelin Vogel, Mary Mix, Elizabeth Dowell and Carrie Shank modeled bikinis that showed off hours of hard work and healthy choices.
The teens showed off their talents in other areas, as well. Smith offered a colorful performance for the audience and judges using color guard spinning flags, a wooden rifle and a saber. Keller silenced the audience with her performance of “A Dream Is A Wish,” and Tarkington performed a dance routine to the song “Oil and Water.”
Miss Kosciusko contestants shared similar talents of singing, playing of musical instruments and dance routines. Mix took to the stage to share her flutist talents with the crowd, playing “On My Own,” as the judges nodded along. Shank played the viola while singing “Hold My Hand.”
All of the contestants displayed gorgeous evening wear, taking the stage one at a time to sparkle and shine as each made her way across the stage. Each young woman stopped in front of the judges to offer and smile and a final glitter flash before exiting the stage.
Contestants also answered questions for the judges. The teen contestants drew from a fish bowl of random questions and answered on the spot. Miss Kosciusko County Outstanding Teen 2015, Haley Begay, read the questions to the ladies. Jackson was asked to describe herself in just two words, laughing as she told the audience she was “loyal” and “quirky.”
Throughout the evening, the audience heard from former title holders Begay and Karlee Mawhorter, Miss Kosciusko County 2015, and Allie Velie, Little Miss Kosciusko County 2015. Each woman shared her experiences as title holder over the past year. Begay explained how she has “grown such a love for this organization,” and was looking forward to continuing with the program.