Miss USM and Miss Natchez Trace win Thursday preliminaries - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Miss USM and Miss Natchez Trace win Thursday preliminaries

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Two more preliminary winners were selected at the Miss Mississippi Pageant Thursday. Miss University of Southern Mississippi won the talent preliminary and Miss Natchez Trace took first place in swimsuit.

Grace Claire Cordes was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis as a child and was forced to give up soccer and piano. With the encouragement of her music teacher she began singing.

Thursday night she sang her way to a win in the talent preliminary.

"It's been an absolutely amazing experience" said Cordes. "I'm so thankful for the support that I've had thus far. Music is a huge part of my life, I plan to dedicate the rest of my life to it in terms of career and what I love to do so, its, it's a very rewarding experience and I'm very, very thankful and humbled."

Cordes, who is Miss University of Southern Mississippi, says her music teacher suggested the song that impressed the judges and the audience.

"My voice teacher at the University of Southern Mississippi is Dr. Mary Ann Kyle" said Cordes. "And she was the one who really stepped in and said I want you to listen to this song and I think she actually sang it when she participated in Miss Mississippi, so that is kind of special too."

"In swimsuit, 14 contestants competed for top honors. Among them Anna Beth Higginbotham, Miss Heartland, who made the top 10 last year. But it was a repeat win in this category for Miss Natchez Trace, Chelsea Rick.

"It was very strenuous for me to try to try to hit the gym in between comprehensive exams at Millsaps and defending my honors thesis and things of that nature" said Rick. "It was very difficult but I had to do it."

Friday night is the final night of preliminary competition. Rick will compete in talent, Cordes in evening wear.

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