Miss Mississippi 2011 - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Miss Mississippi 2011

For more than 50 years young women have come to Vicksburg hoping to win the title of Miss Mississippi. Forty-five contestants arrived in Vicksburg Sunday morning to begin the week long competition where they can win scholarship money, prizes and the opportunity to represent Mississippi at the Miss America Pageant in Las Vegas.

It's a process that begins long before the contestants arrive in Vicksburg. They must win a local pageant to qualify to take the stage at Miss Mississippi. Among the 45 contestants are last years 1st runner up, Jill Duckworth, Miss University of Southern Mississippi, 2nd runner up, Miss Hattiesburg, Kristen Benigno, 3rd runner up, Caitlyn Smith, Miss Coastal Waters, and 4th runner up, Miss Heartland, Fenly Akers.

"To be on stage and to hear my name called, I had quite the moment where I felt I needed to look around and say was that really my name", said Akers.

"When I was announced in the Top 10 you know, I was on cloud nine and then when they announced me in the Top 5, I just didn't know what to do with myself. I wasn't expecting it but I was very excited and very thankful", Smith said.

"It was so thrilling because I know that considering that this is my fifth year, you want to see that you're getting progressively better, that your hard work is being rewarded", said Benigno.

"It was my first year and I was really excited. I worked really hard but I don't think in the end I really expected to end up as first alternate", Duckworth said.

Also returning several contestants from the Top 10, Miss Metro Jackson, Chelsea Rick, Miss North Central Mississippi, Mary Margaret Roark, and Miss Mississippi State, Jessica Terrill.

"You're surrounded with 44 of the best girls in the state who really I feel like just are such spokes women of everything our state stands for", said Terrill.

"Its for women who have passion, women who are talented, women who want to be progressive, that's when I really got interested", Roark said.

"I was called as the 10th person and that's the second year in a row for me so that's really an interesting experience because there are so many wonderful girls still standing at that moment and to have your name called is an incredible blessing", said Rick.

Among the judges this year, Patrick House the winner of, "The Biggest Loser", and Ericka Dunlap, a former Miss America. The new Miss Mississippi will be crowned at the Vicksburg Convention Center Saturday night.

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