Is Highest Ever For
Miss Greene County
BY VELMA SOUTHERLAND
After a first runner-up win at the Miss Tennessee Scholarship Pageant on Saturday in Jackson, will Miss Greene County Sarah Stokely return to try for the crown another time?
She certainly will if the directors of the local pageants -- known as "locals" in the jargon of pageant-land -- can talk her into it.
"I knew she was going to do really well," said Terri Lamons, executive director of the Miss Greene County Scholarship Pageant.
"She had just shined like a star all week. She has not missed a beat all week," Lamons said on Sunday.
The directors are "already bugging her to death," Lamons said, trying to convince her to enter their pageants.
Stokely, a 20-year-old junior at East Tennessee State University, is undecided.
"It is just so hard to answer right now being the day after the competition," she told The Greeneville Sun.
"I'm going to give myself a week to rest up and figure out what I want to do," she said.
During Stokely's long drive back home from Jackson on Sunday afternoon, she had time for an interview.
A WINNING FRIENDSHIP
She related a story about her friendship with Miss Capital City Shelby Thompson, who won the Miss Tennessee crown on Saturday night.
The two women happened to be in the same group. They rehearsed together, were in the same areas and hung out together. They also developed an admiration for each other.
One day in rehearsal, Thompson told Stokely that her sister had said, "I love you, and I know how much you want to win this. But if you can't and it has to be someone else, I'm going to root for Sarah."
At that point, Stokely told Thompson that during her interview, she had been asked if she could not win, which other contestant would she like to see wearing the crown.
Stokely said that she, of course, reiterated how much she wanted the job, but if it absolutely had to go to someone else she would want it to be Thompson because she is "truly genuine and worked really hard and would be a great representative for Tennessee."
SHARING THE MOMENT
So when it happened and the 36 original contestants (who had originally been placed in three groups of 12 for preliminary shows, then reunited as a whole for Saturday's finale) had been winnowed down to two -- Thompson and Stokely -- they stood there talking to each other.
"We were glad it was us two at the top and able to enjoy that moment together," Stokely said.
Stokely's experience at the Miss Tennessee pageant was "so much better this time," she said.
Her first trip to the Carl Perkins Civic Center in Jackson had been in 2011 when she was a new graduate of Cocke County High School.
She learned the system on that trip.
This year, she was "able to enjoy everything more and make more friendships," Stokely said.
'VERY HAPPY' WITH FINISH
She is "very happy" with her first runner-up finish, having thought that if she just gotten into the top 15 she could be happy with that.
Then, her name just kept being called -- for the top 12, the top 10, and finally for the top five.
Each time, she would think to herself, "one step closer.
"My heart was beating out of my chest."
Then, when it was down to the final two, Stokely remembers thinking, "Oh, my gosh, I could be Miss Tennessee."
She and Thompson, standing there alone in the middle of the stage discussed that "no matter who won, we believed Tennessee was going to be in good hands.
"I was just so humbled that I made it that far."
Lamons was feeling "fabulous" Sunday afternoon as she discussed how much fun pageant week always is and how "very, very exciting" this one had been.
"We were beside ourselves," Lamons said, as she and her family and friends were watching the events of Saturday night unfold at the Carl Perkins Civic Center.
When the top 15 semifinalists were announced, Lamons and her family and friends had expected that.
"When the 12 were announced, we started to come unglued then," she said.
By the time the top five were announced and Stokely's name was called, "I thought I was going to fall out in the floor."
When it got to the final two, and Stokely and Thompson were hugging each other awaiting the final pronouncement, Lamons realized that her group was standing up, holding hands and "all of us had our heads down, praying."
After the crowning, when everyone rushed the stage, Lamons said that Stokely was so excited "you would have thought Sarah won."
HIGHEST LOCAL FINISH
As first runner-up, Stokely as Miss Greene County 2012, has placed higher in the state pageant than any of her Miss Greene County predecessors.
Stokely, of Newport, was participating in the 61st Miss Tennessee Pageant, which is a preliminary to the Miss America Scholarship Pageant in which the winner, Thompson, will compete in mid-September in Atlantic City, N.J.
$13,700 IN SCHOLARSHIPS
In addition to the thrill of taking the first runner-up spot, Stokely won a $7,500 scholarship to add to what she had already received in this trip to Jackson.
At the Friday Family Lunch, it had been announced that Stokely had won the Children's Miracle Network's "Miracle Maker Award" and a $1,000 scholarship.
She also received $3,200 in commission (and took second place in the Public Relations Award) for selling 32 full-page ads for the Miss Tennessee program book.
Stokely said that when she completes her year as Miss Greene County, she will have won at least $13,700 in scholarship money.
PAYOUTS FOR WINNERS
Thompson, the winner, received a $13,000 scholarship and the 2013 Miss Tennessee crown from Chandler Lawson, last year's winner.
Thompson, of Brentwood, had been crowned Friday evening's Talent winner for her classical vocal performance of "Voices of Spring."
The top five finalists had all won preliminary titles in the three evenings that led to the Saturday finale.
The second runner-up was the youngest member of the top five, Miss Tennessee Valley Hannah Robison ($5,500), also a Swimsuit winner.
Third runner-up went to Talent winner Miss Music City Elizabeth Oliphint ($4,000).
Fourth runner-up was Miss Lexington Kendall Covington ($3,000), the only contestant this year to win both a Swimsuit and a Talent preliminary.
CHANCE FOR SCHOLARSHIPS
Thompson, this year's winner, is a previous Talent winner and placed as second runner-up in 2011.
It is these repeat wins at the state level that allow young women the opportunity for good scholarship amounts. And the scholarships are exactly why Lamons reactivated the Miss Greene County Scholarship Pageant in 2007.
Girls where Lamons' daughter took dance classes were participating in out-of-town pageants for the opportunity to win scholarships. To help them have one more opportunity, she decided to get a local Miss Tennessee franchise.
She can't understand the mindset of folks who want only Greene County girls to be able to win the pageant.
When someone told her she disagreed with the open policy, Lamons asked her, "If your son was given a football scholarship from Duke, wouldn't you be thrilled? It's the same thing, only Duke is not even in the state. She (Miss Greene County) is representing Greene County for her education.
"That football in that boy's hand is the same thing as that crown on that girl's head -- a scholarship."