Tonight in front of thousands of people, former Miss UVU and current Miss Utah Danica Olsen will be competing for the title of Miss America. She will be competing against representatives from all of the other 49 states, as well as contestants from the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
Olsen and the other contestants have been competing all week in the various preliminary competitions, leading up to the final show tonight. These preliminary competitions include Artistic Expression (Talent), Presentation and Community Achievement (Interview), Presence and Poise (Evening Wear), and Lifestyle and Fitness (Swimwear). The contestants are divided into three groups, Mu, Alpha or Sigma, and each group competes in the various categories, alternating so that every woman finishes the preliminary competitions before the main event.
Olsen dazzled the judges on Tuesday night and won Lifestyle and Fitness in the Sigma group. This is the fifth time a Miss Utah has won the swimwear preliminary competition, the most recent being in 2006 with Julia Bachison. The first time a Miss Utah won the swimwear preliminary round was in 1985 with Sharlene Wells. Wells went on to win the title of Miss America, the second time in the history of the competition a representative from Utah won the crown, the first being in 1952 with Colleen Kay Hutchins.
The same evening, Miss Wisconsin Laura Kaeppeler won in the Artistic Expression competition in her group with an operatic vocal in the Alpha Group. On Wednesday, Miss Texas, Kendall Morris, won the Lifestyle and Fitness award for the Mu group while Miss Oklahoma, Betty Thompson, won the Artistic Expression portion for the Sigma group with an Irish Step Dance. Competed against Thompson and the other Sigma contestants with a dance number. On Thursday, Miss New York, Kaitlin Monte, won the Lifestyle and Fitness section for the Alpha group while Miss Hawaii, Laura Cheape, won the Artistic Expression portion for the Mu group.
Winning portions of the preliminary rounds is important since it gives the contestants a higher chance of advancing farther into the competition. At the end of the preliminary rounds, each contestant is given a score based on their performances in each of the categories. The score is broken down as such: Lifestyle and Fitness–15%, Evening Wear–20%, Talent–35%, Private Interview–25%, and On-Stage Question–5%.
It is the score from the preliminary rounds that determines the top 16 contestants who will be competing for the final competition held on national television. During the national pageant, the top 16 contestants will once again perform in the Lifestyle and Fitness competition. Six of the contestants will be eliminated based on their score from Lifestyle and Fitness and the composite score received during the preliminary rounds. The top 10 contestants then proceed with Evening Wear, after which two more are eliminated. Those remaining eight then compete in talent and the on-stage question. The judges then choose their top five contestants in the order of who they believe should win. The winner of the pageant is chosen based solely on the point totals resulting from the final ballot.
Last year, former Miss UVU Christina Lowe competed as Miss Utah in the 2010 Miss America Pageant and finished in the top 15 in the competition. Several Miss Utahs have placed either in the top 16/15 or the top 10 in recent years, the closest being Katie Millar who placed in the top 10 in the 2007 competition and Jacylin Hunt who was also in the top 10 in 2002. However, a Miss Utah hasn’t won the competition since 1985 with Sharlene Wells.
The final competition is being aired live tonight starting at 8:00 p.m. on ABC.
By Kelly Cannon – Life Editor
Photos courtesy of www.missamerica.org