- Special Sections
Rachelle Muir didnât plan on competing in the Miss America Scholarship Preliminary Pageant while her little sister Sarah lay unconscious in an Atlanta, Ga. hospital bed, but she did it anyway. Itâs what her sister would have wanted, she said.
Rachelle, an 18-year-old senior from Litchville-Marion High School competed with six other young women for the title of Miss James River, Miss Peace Garden, or Miss Peace Garden on Saturday in Montpelier. Winners of the local pageant received scholarships and can go on the compete in the Miss North Dakota Pageant. All the young women who competed were awarded a $100 scholarship.
The teen joined the pageant less than two weeks ago at her high school counselorâs urging. The counselor, who worked with the pageant, wanted local representation and Rachelle thought it would be a great self-confidence booster.
Though she wasnât terribly shy, Rachelle is active in speech and the Governorâs School where she learned to speak in public and to others, she thought the pageant would help with some lingering fears. And it did.
âIâm more confident now,â said Rachelle. âIâve been in front of a crowd in a swimsuit!â she said with a laugh.
Besides a swimsuit competition, the pageant included a private interview, an evening gown competition, on-stage questions, dance routines by the participants, and a talent competition. During on-stage questioning, Rachelle explained to the judges why she thought her platform, âchildrenâs rights during times of trouble,â was important. Itâs because those kids nee an advocate, she said.
âItâs about social work. I hate to see anyone hurting,â she said.
Each part of the competition carried a percentage value, but the talent competition was the most important part of the evening comprising 25 percent of each participantâs final score.
While Rachelle had sung in front of a crowd during her schoolâs talent show, âThe Hit Parade,â singing Nickelbackâs âIf Everyone Caredâ was still difficult. But practice made it easier, she said.
âThe more you do it the better you get,â she added.
Dancing was her favorite part of the competition, though. Participants learned a dance on the first day of practice, just a week before the pageant, and had just one day to master it, said Rachelle.
âI danced in high heels and I didnât break my neck!â Rachelle shouted into the crowd after the competition.
Throughout the pageant, Rachelle admitted she had other things on her mind.
She worried about her sister Sarah, 16, who had gone through liver and kidney transplants the week before the pageant.
During surgery, Sarak had complications that left her without a heartbeat for an extended time, according to Rachelle. Though doctors were able to resuscitate her, Sarah hadnât awakened from surgery when she developed a bleeding problem. Doctors discovered a large clot in a blood vessel above her new kidney. Another surgery on Friday evening resolved the clot, but Sarah remains in a coma. Itâs still unclear whether Sarah is rejecting the new kidney or if she sustained extensive brain damage as a result of oxygen deprivation during the first surgery.
Just before the pageant, Rachelle spoke to her father who assured her that Sarah would want her to compete.
âSarah was a major motivator for me,â said Rachelle. âI did it for her.â
And, after gaining experience from her first pageant, she hopes to enter another, she said.
Rachelle currently lives in Litchville with friends while her family is in Atlanta. She will remain there until graduation. After high school she plans to study veterinary technology at the Vet Tech Institute in Houston, Texas.