Vicksburg Strong: Three local women earn top five spots in state competitions

Published 8:46 pm Sunday, June 23, 2024

On the final night of the Miss Mississippi Competition, two Vicksburg girls were named runners-up to Miss Mississippi. Morgan Nelson, representing Mississippi State University, and Sarah Randolph, Miss Heart of the South, were second and third runners-up, respectively, to the Miss Mississippi 2024 Becky Williams. Had this ever happened before — two local women in the top five?

“I can’t answer that question,” executive director of the Miss Mississippi Organization David Blackledge said. 

“I will have to defer that question to Joe Savage or somebody that has been around about 50 years,” laughed Blackledge. “But to my knowledge, I’m not aware of us having two ladies in the top five.”

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

And if having two locals in the top five at the Miss Mississippi Competition isn’t enough to underscore the depth of talent in the River City, Gabrelle McLeod, also of Vicksburg, competed in the Miss Louisiana Competition representing the University of Louisiana at Monroe and finished fourth runner-up to the winner.

Blackledge said he is excited to see local women entering the competitions.

“We are extremely pleased to have Vicksburg and Warren County young ladies back in the competition. It really kind of started last year and continued this year and we are just really hoping it will continue on,” he said, adding that Brelynn Beck – also a local – competed in this year’s Miss Mississippi as Miss Vicksburg.

In talking with the local runners-ups, all three expressed many of the same views as it pertained to how they felt earning a top-five position, their experiences in participating in their respective state competitions, the impact of the financial scholarships earned and how they feel about coming back next year.

“Placing top 11 and fourth runner-up is truly an honor,” McLeod said. “Being that it was my first year, I almost counted myself out before taking the stage. Through prayer and great preparation with my director Meghan Olinger, I was well-prepared and took on the competition feeling as if I had been doing it for years. Being called up for both will forever feel like a dream.”

Nelson and Randolph were not newcomers to the Miss Mississippi Competition. Both competed last year and they said the experience benefited them on all levels.

“It was unbelievable every time I heard my name,” Randolph said. “I was just thanking God for everything. From being in the top 15 last year, not even making it into the top 10 competing my first year, it showed me that hard work and dedication goes a long way. Third runner-up still sounds absolutely crazy to me, but being a part of this organization has grown me so much as a person and has strengthened my mindset to truly believe in myself.”

Nelson had similar feelings about her own success in this year’s competition.

“To be standing there hearing my name called, seeing my fellow delegates cheering me on, and hearing the cowbells and screams in the audience was an experience that I will never forget,” she said. “I know that I had given Miss Mississippi week my all. I was authentic, impactful, and hardworking through the whole process. I’ve seen a tremendous amount of growth in myself, and I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.” 

The Miss America organization, which includes its state competitions, provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships each year to contestants in an effort to assist them in their educations.

Currently, Nelson is studying for the MCAT and said the scholarships she was awarded will allow her to further her goal of becoming a doctor.

“I am no stranger to the cost of undergraduate school and medical school. It is such a blessing to have been awarded so many scholarship dollars through the Miss Mississippi opportunity. It will go straight to the rest of my undergraduate degree and medical school. Thanks to this organization, I am getting an early start to my career and receiving help to chase my ultimate dream of becoming a physician.”

McLeod said she is working towards a degree in kinesiology and exercise science, and the scholarships she was awarded will help her pursue a career in athletic training and coaching.

Randolph echoed McLeod’s sentiments. 

“Being a first-generation college student, I’m so incredibly grateful for organizations like the Miss America organization that empowers women to pursue their dreams while providing scholarships to make it possible,” she said. “I’ve earned scholarships not only at the state level, but at the preliminary levels as well, and I’m about to graduate debt free from Mississippi State University next spring.”

Randolph said she plans to become a cosmetic dentist, which will require additional schooling. 

“So that’s definitely where my scholarship dollars will be going: to further my education at dental school,” she said.

McLeod, Randolph and Nelson will all be eligible to compete again next year, but only time will tell if any or all decide to return.

“The Miss Louisiana Organization has welcomed me with open arms. As someone who has never competed in pageants, this has been a great year to try something new and have fun,” McLeod said. “But at the moment, I am not sure if I will be returning to the Miss America system or Miss Louisiana Organization for next year.” 

“As soon as I finished Miss Mississippi, I immediately started back studying for the MCAT. I also attended UMMC (University of Mississippi Medical Center) for a total of six days for the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program and the PROMISE Program,” Nelson said. “So, it’s been a strong switch in focus, but I am looking forward to revisiting the idea of Miss Mississippi when I get a small break from academics.”

“I love the Miss Mississippi organization,” Randolph said. “And I would love to compete again next year for the title of Miss Mississippi. I’m just allowing God to lead my journey.”

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

email author More by Terri Cowart