Pageant’s first night: Southern, Dixieland, Deep South

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 12, 2001

Winners in Wednesday night’s preliminary competition to be Miss Mississippi 2001 are, from left, swimsuit winners Miss Dixieland Heather Russell and Miss Southern Jennifer Adcock and talent winner Miss Deep South Becky Pruett. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[07/12/01] Spanish shoes and deja vu prevailed Wednesday night as the 39 Miss Mississippi 2001 hopefuls met in their first night of preliminary competition in front of the near-capacity crowd at the Vicksburg Convention Center.

“It’s a good crowd,” said Miss Mississippi Executive Director David Blackledge. “It’s a really good crowd for a Wednesday night.”

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He estimated 1,650 people saw Miss Southern Jennifer Adcock, 20, of Hattiesburg, and Miss Dixieland Heather Russell, 21, of Madison, tie for the swimsuit award and Miss Deep South Becky Pruett, 22, shuffle and sing her way to the night’s talent award.

For Adcock, the win was a reminder of last year’s contest, in which she won the swimsuit award when she competed as Miss Hattiesburg. In that competition, she was fourth runner-up to Miss Mississippi 2000 Christy May.

“You just never know,” said Adcock, who wore a cheetah-print, one-piece suit for this year’s competition. “You really can’t ever expect to win, everyone looks so good.”

Unlike last year, Adcock shared the win Wednesday night.

Russell, who wore a neon green two-piece for her strut across the stage, said she prepared for this portion of the competition by doing cardiovascular workouts and some weight training.

“I’ve worked hard to prepare for this, and I was so nervous beforehand,” said Russell, who won a non-finalist talent award at last year’s pageant as Miss Madison. “But now that it’s started, I’m just going to enjoy myself.”

Each of the swimsuit winners will receive a $200 scholarship.

Pruett, a resident of Hattiesburg, didn’t have to share her win with anybody as she took the first night’s preliminary talent award and a $400 scholarship for her lively Spanish song-and-dance performance of “Man of La Mancha.'”

Pruett said she got the idea to do the piece after seeing a pair of Spanish shoes while shopping. After the shoes, the rest of the costume and the song just fell into place.

“Isn’t is just like a woman to start with an accessory and build everything from there?” she asked.

Pruett’s performance was just one in a night of spectacular efforts from her fellow contestants. And for Pruett, that made the preliminary win all the more meaningful.

“Everyone is my group is a class-act,” she said. “The greatest thing about it is that everyone was so strong. It’s more fun when everybody does a great job and nobody knows who’s going to win until they announce it. It was just whoever happened to be on tonight.”

Preliminary competition continues tonight and Friday in the convention center that seats a maximum 1,700 for the pageant, leading into Saturday night’s finale when one of the 39 young women will be crowned Miss Mississippi.