2 take swimwear, 1 wins talent ahead of tonight’s crowning

Published 12:32 am Saturday, July 10, 2010

A tie in swimwear and a single win in talent Friday rounded out the third and final night of Miss Mississippi preliminary competition. A new queen will be crowned tonight.

Taking top honors in swimwear were Miss Rankin County-Southwest Megan Miller, 19, of McComb, and Miss Spirit of the South Jill Duckworth, 21, of Clinton. The talent winner was Miss Delta Blues Caitlyn Smith, 21, of Columbus. Miller and Duckworth each received a $200 cash scholarship; Smith, $300.

Miller, a second-year contestant, also tied for a talent win Wednesday night, during the first round of preliminary competition.

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“I’m a lot more confident this year,” she said. “I’ve learned the ropes of everything, and now I can relax and have fun.”

Miller graduated from Southwest Mississippi Community College in May and plans to study pre-med at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Duckworth, a first-year competitor and Southern Miss student, said she lost more than 20 pounds in the last three months to prepare.

“I never would have thought in a million years that I would come here and win a swimsuit preliminary,” she said, “of all things.”

Smith, competing for the second time, played the piano. She won a talent preliminary last year when she competed as Miss North Central Mississippi.

“I came out here and played a different piece (“La Campanella”) than I did last year,” said the University of Alabama English student. “I prayed about it before…It paid off.”

Tonight’s crowning will be shown in live TV and website broadcasts from the Vicksburg Convention Center. The winner will head to Las Vegas Jan. 15 for the Miss America Pageant.

The top 10 will be announced at the beginning of tonight’s show.

On Wednesday, the first night of preliminary competition, Miss Meridian Mary Margaret Roark, 19, of Cleveland, and Miss Mid South Danielle Smith, 24, of Meridian tied in swimsuit. Miller and Miss Heritage Ashley Wieronski, 20, of Southaven tied in talent. On Thursday night, Smith took the talent win, and Miss Mississippi State University Fenly Akers, 20, of Vicksburg won swimsuit.

Smith is a fourth-year contestant, each time placing in the top five. Akers and Miller are second-year contestants.

Roark and Wieronski are first-year competitors.