Three women have been named as preliminary winners in two nights of competition in the Miss Kansas Pageant, which would seem to give them an edge; however a complicated scoring system used in the Miss America Pageant system leaves plenty of room for surprises when Miss Kansas 2013 is named on Saturday night.
Theresa Vail proved that a soldier can sing opera when she captured the preliminary talent award at Thursday's competition.
The 22-year-old, competing as Miss Leavenworth County, is a student at Kansas State University and a member of the Kansas Army National Guard. She performed "Nessun Dorma" from the opera Turandot that is written for a male vocalist — fitting for a contestant whose platform is about empowering young women through male-dominant activities.
On Friday, she also won the preliminary award in the swimsuit category.
Thursday's swimsuit winner was Ashley Ulmer, a 24-year-old graduate of Wichita State University from Whitewater. Competing as Miss Butler County, she won her first preliminary award in four years on the Miss Kansas stage.
Jackie Newland, an 18-year-old graduate of Neodesha High School, won Friday's talent award. In a taped introduction that preceded her performance, she discussed handling stress. She was put to the test, when a hands-free microphone failed to pick up her voice. Judges gave her a second chance, with the same result. Called back to the stage for a third time, she delivered an entertaining performance of "Gimme, Gimme," that pleased the judges and the audience.
In introducing the talent category, host Michael Schwanke, co-anchor and investigative reporter for KWCH Channel 12, explained that quality of performance, preparation and presence factor into judges' decisions.
One of the youngest contestants in the pageant, Newland, seemed to handle the technical problems with ease. Talent counts for 35 percent of the score on preliminary nights.
Preliminary awards are also given for eveningwear, but were not revealed at the performances.
As part of the evening wear competition, contestants answer an on-stage question, drawn from a bowl. The response, weighted at 5 percent, is combined with evening wear at 25 percent.
Asked about which national issue most concerns her, Vail replied that would be the IRS and what they've been doing to the Republican party.
"It confirms that government agencies can do whatever they want to whomever they want," she said.
Ulmer advocated more internships to get practical knowledge to improve education.
The best life lesson learned by Mercedes Jellison, an 18-year-old from Topeka, is to "keep carrying on." She explained that if she stumbles and falls during a dance performance, she has to get up and finish the dance. That carries over into other areas of life.
Page 2 of 2 - A record number of Sunflower Princesses, 61 girls age 5-12, were introduced along with the contestants who are mentoring them.
Contestants were challenged to recruit princesses this year, and given cash incentives for their efforts. Each Miss who mentored at least five girls received a $200 cash award, and the chance to receive an additional $250 by drawing. Miss Augusta Chelsea Chilcott won the drawing.
State achievement awards were given for a variety of efforts supporting the Miss Kansas Organization, including recruiting princesses, selling salute pages in the program book, raising at least $1,000 for Children's Miracle Network, the signature project of the Miss America Organization, and appearing at events.
Six contestants were recognized on Thursday night. On Friday, Miss Southwest Hannah Langley was named as the winner of the top bronze achievement award of $250.
Langley was also named as the winner of a $400 platinum Quality of Life award for 485 hours of community service. The Winfield student at Oklahoma State University advocates organ donation for her platform.
Ulman received the $300 gold award for 262 community service hours in support of a program she calls DNA: Ignite your Spark, embracing individual differences.
Miss Wooded Hills Danielle Hill received the $200 silver award for 244 hours in support of her platform, cultivating a healthy lifestyle, and Miss Golden Belt Kaiti Hemann accepted the $100 bronze award. She has performed 129 community service hours. Her platform is, "Be a hero: stop bullying."
Performances have featured three former Miss Kansas titleholders: Karen Schwartz Angle (1963), Jane Schulte Goodheart (1973) who has the role of principal entertainer, and Angelea Busby (2003) who assisted with announcing duties.
Miss Kansas Outstanding Teen Stevie Mack and 18 contestants for the 2013 title performed a dance number and introduced themselves. The Miss Kansas Outstanding Teen Pageant is at 2 p.m. Saturday at Carpenter Auditorium. Tickets are available at the door.