NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A brand new Miss America has been crowned, but two contestants with ties to Tennessee still brought pride to the Volunteer State from the national stage.
Stanke, a University of Wisconsin-Madison student, is actually the first nuclear engineer to compete for the title. She also won the talent award on the second night of the preliminary competition for her performance on the classical violin.
Alongside Stanke was a powerhouse group of women on the Miss America stage, including Miss Tennessee and Miss Georgia, both of whom graduated from the University of Tennessee.
While competing at Miss America this year, Dickson brought her social impact initiative — “Heart for the Hungry: Overcoming Food Insecurity” — to the country’s attention.
Leading up to the big moment, Dickson said more than anything she’s grateful for the hometown love.
“The support has been unreal,” Dickson said. “My phone has blown up the entire time and I feel bad that I can’t reach back out and just say thank you, but thank you does not seem like enough to say. Henderson County, Decatur County, they have rallied around me, Perry County, Carroll County, the counties that I’ve served in my time in this organization as their local titleholder. It’s been amazing.”
Meanwhile, even though she was representing the Peach State in the Miss America competition, Miss Georgia 2022, Kelsey Hollis, actually graduated from UT Knoxville.
On the first night of the preliminary national competition, Hollis won an award for her social impact initiative, through which she hopes to promote inclusivity by teaching awareness, acceptance, and advocacy for the autism community.
Hollis said this cause hits close to home as her brother has autism.
“Just being on a national level, one in every 54 children are actually diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder within our country, so I think it’s kind of a statistic and something that people don’t realize is really prevalent,” Hollis said.
Hollis went on to become fourth runner-up in the Miss America competition Thursday night.
News 2 also spoke to the host of the final night of the competition, ESPN anchor Laura Rutledge.
Rutledge was not only Miss Florida 2012, but she also made it to the top 15 at Miss America 2013, so delivered a simple message to this year’s contestants before they took the stage.
“You’ve accomplished something that most people never even get close to,” Rutledge said. “You know, it’s so hard to get to this point. They’ve all worked so hard, they’ve been so great in the lead up to this, and then the ones who don’t win Miss America get to go back home and represent their state, which means a lot as well.”
The Miss America 2023 competition is set to re-air on News 2 next year. The date has not been determined.