Iowa double prelim winner at Miss America, ‘There she is’ song is back

Miss Puerto Rico Destiny Noelle Velez plays the drums during preliminary talent competition at the 2016 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) – Miss Iowa continued racking up points in her march toward the 2016 Miss America crown on Thursday, adding a swimsuit preliminary title to her talent win two days earlier.

Taylor Wiebers won the talent preliminary on Tuesday before winning the swimsuit title on Thursday.

“I don’t believe there are a combination of words in the English language to describe what I’m feeling right now,” she said afterward. “I wanted to go onstage and have fun and show the judges that I had worked hard.”

Miss Georgia Betty Cantrell won the talent preliminary on Thursday by singing an opera song to loud applause from the crowd at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.

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“I love to bring the drama,” Cantrell said. “I want to leave people who hear me sing with something to think about. I hope I left the audience with some deep emotions they might not have known they had.”

Winners in the swimsuit and talent preliminary competitions accrue points that boost their scores heading into Sunday night’s nationally televised finale.

Also on Thursday, pageant officials revealed they are bringing back the iconic theme song for the pageant, with the line “There she is, Miss America.”

Miss America Organization executive chairman Sam Haskell told The Associated Press his group reached a settlement with the estate of songwriter Bernie Wayne that will allow the song to be used again. He said the pageant is paying an undisclosed amount for the right to use the song, which longtime host Bert Parks sang for years, starting in 1955.

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The song had been absent from the pageant for the past five years amid a legal dispute over the right to use it. The new Miss America will be crowned at Sunday night’s finale, with a recording of Parks singing it.

Thursday’s talent competition featured an unusual science experiment by Miss Vermont Alayna Westcom, who donned protective goggles, mixed some chemicals and created a foamy eruption she calls “elephant’s toothpaste.”

The experiment combined potassium iodide, hydrogen peroxide and soap. The result was an eruption of foam shooting skyward out of a beaker.

She considered even more disruptive experiments but was restrained by the pageant’s rules prohibiting the use of fire or projectiles.

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Westcom has immersed herself in science and wants to encourage girls and other young women to do so as well. She graduated in 2013 with a degree in forensic science from Bay Path University in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, and got an internship with the Vermont state medical examiner’s office. Working in that field is her career goal.

“I got to see firsthand what the medical examiner’s office does, how it handles cases and interacts with families,” she said. “It’s not at all like on TV shows.”