ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Michigan and Ohio loom large in the presidential election, but they also brought some swing-state magic to the Miss America Pageant Thursday night in Atlantic City.
Miss Michigan Arianna Quan and Miss Ohio Alice Magoto won preliminary contests on the third and final night of preliminary competition.
Quan played a piano composition titled “The Lark,” and Magoto won the swimsuit competition.
The competition at Boardwalk Hall includes contestants from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Here are some highlights from Thursday’s competition:
Quan played “The Lark” by Glinka-Balakirev, ending with a dramatic flourish and an ear-to-ear smile as if she knew she had nailed it perfectly. The audience responded with a loud ovation when she was done.
“I was so relieved,” she said. “My rehearsal was a little rough; I didn’t have time to warm up. I was just praying, ‘Dear Lord,’ just that what I had to present was enough.”
Magoto was thrilled to win the swimsuit competition with her platform on “unedited beauty,” encouraging girls and young women to accept themselves as they are, post social media photos without makeup or electronic editing and reject preconceptions about what is beautiful and what is not.
“It just shows you can be completely authentic, 100 percent unedited and still rock a swimsuit,” she said.
With 52 women vying for the crown, finding a way to stand out from the crowd is imperative, and contestants traditionally incorporate their home state into a humorous introduction of themselves.
“From the state that gave you four U.S. presidents, from Lincoln to Obama, I’m running to be your first lady,” said Miss Illinois Jaryn Franklin.
“There might be 52 of us, but I’m your Maine chick!” proclaimed Miss Maine Marybeth Noonan.
“Come for the culture, stay because … your car won’t start! I’m Miss Minne-snow-ta,” said Miss Minnesota Madeline Van Ert.
“From the Show-Me State, I’ve got a lot to show you, America!” said Miss Missouri Erin O’Flaherty.
And from Miss Texas, Caroline Carothers, came this gem: “From the state where the two biggest sports are football and teasing your hair, I’m Miss Texas!”
Miss Puerto Rico Carole Rigual performed a dramatic monologue titled “Crossroads,” and Miss Washington Alicia Cooper tap danced to Jennifer Lopez’s “Let’s Get Loud.”
Miss West Virginia Morgan Breeden played an original piano composition about overcoming bullying, and Miss Kansas Kendall Schoenekase sang the Bill Withers hit “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
Miss Delaware Amanda Debus danced contemporary ballet to “Fight Song.”
Another huge ovation greeted Miss Kentucky Laura Jones, who performed a violin solo to Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.”
Supporting the arts, ending bullying and eating healthy figured prominently in the contestants’ onstage interviews.
Van Ert, Miss Minnesota, said arts education helps young minds.
“It’s about creating and expressing and believing in yourself and embracing your imperfections and using it to help improve the world around you,” she said.
Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields said people should look closely at what they eat before they consume it.
“Read your labels,” she said. “If you can’t read it, don’t eat it. See if the food you’re eating is made by the sun or made in a lab.”
Miss New Mexico Stephanie Chavez said parents should help children read as an enjoyable hobby.
“Practice and learn to associate reading with love,” she said.
On Wednesday, Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields won the talent competition with a jazz dance to a song from the TV show “Smash,” and Miss Maryland Hannah Brewer won the swimsuit competition.
On Tuesday night, Miss District of Columbia Cierra Jackson won the swimsuit competition, while Miss Tennessee Grace Burgess won the talent portion by singing The Eagles’ “Desperado.”
The 2017 Miss America will be crowned Sunday night.