ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Miss Florida won the swimsuit competition and Miss Louisiana took the talent portion of the second night of preliminaries in the Miss America pageant Wednesday night.
Mary Katherine Fechtel of Florida won the swimsuit portion of the evening, while April Nelson of Louisiana won the talent portion with a soaring rendition of "Climb Every Mountain" from the musical "The Sound Of Music" that got one of the biggest ovations of the night from the Boardwalk Hall crowd.
"I was a musical theater major in college and I fell in love with 'The Sound of Music,' when I saw Julie Andrews spinning around on that mountaintop," Nelson said afterward.
As a state Miss America titleholder, Nelson said she is excited about being inducted into the "Hall Of Hair" at her alma mater, Oklahoma City University, honoring pageant titleholders.
Fechtel said she had struggled for much of her life with "being too thin."
"It's OK to be your body type," she said. "Just be healthy. There's no ideal body type. Just work out and be healthy."
On Tuesday night, Miss South Carolina Daja Dial won the swimsuit competition, and Miss Iowa Taylor Wiebers won the talent portion. Winners of preliminary competitions accrue points toward their final standings in the nationally televised finale Sunday night.
The second of three nights of preliminary competition began Wednesday night as it always has in the past — with the introduction of the 52 contestants. Each introduces herself with an ode to her home state. And if some self-promotion creeps in, all the better.
Miss Tennessee, Hannah Robison, proudly proclaimed: "I'm here to put the 'ten' in Tennessee."
Wiebers, of Iowa, cited livestock and movie stars in her intro.
"My state has the most hogs to butcher — and Ashton Kutcher," she said.
Some slogans are too good to retire, having been passed down from year to year. Contestants from Kentucky, for instance, have been fond of saying they come from a state "known for fast horses and beautiful women — better not get those confused!"
Miss Georgias frequently invoke their busy airport in saying, "If you want to get to heaven, you'll have to change planes in Atlanta!"
And some contestants not only pushed the envelope, they shredded it to bits. Witness Miss Wisconsin Rosalie Smith, who said she was "representing your dairy state. Come smell our dairy air!"
The contestants will show off their state-specific footwear at Saturday's "Show Us Your Shoes" parade on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.
During the onstage interview portion, Miss Alabama Meg McGuffin also urged girls and young women not to obsess over body image.
"Tell girls not to be defined by the number on the scale or on their jeans," she said. "They don't have to be skinny to be beautiful from the inside out."
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC