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Miss Kitsap doesn't take state crown, but plenty of memories
TACOMA — Saturday's crowning of Janet Harding ended two Kitsapers' quests of becoming Miss Washington 2008.
The 21-year-old Harding, a Yelm native and student at Western Washington University in Bellingham, replaces Elyse Umemoto, last year's winner and Miss America 2007 second runner-up. Harding will compete at Miss America in Las Vegas in January 2009.
While Kitsap won't produce this year's Miss Washington, the county's two representatives, Miss Kitsap 2008 Samantha Przybylek and Miss Poulsbo 2008 Amy Stadshaug, brought home plenty of hardware — and memories.
Seabeck native Samantha Przybylek, who was crowned Miss Kitsap 2008 at the Miss Kitsap/Miss Poulsbo Scholarship pageant in March, landed two awards, the Non-Finalist Interview award and the Non-Finalist Talent award, both worth $500. She received a total of $2,000 in scholarship money.
Przybylek, 21, called the event a "great experience" and hopes to return again.
"This experience was so much fun for me," she said. "This is my first time coming here ... I came not knowing what to expect and made a ton of new friends."
The 16 contestants arrived in Tacoma July 6, received roommate assignments and together embarked on a week of public appearances and pageant preparation.
"I think the most important thing that I really took away was 14 new friends," Przybylek said. "They were great girls, they were so fun to work with."
The contestants visited Children's Hospital, worked a farmer's market booth and visited Freighthouse Square, among others, Przybylek said.
"It was so much fun. It didn't feel like we were working all week but we were working very, very hard," she said.
With the help of Miss Poulsbo/Miss Kitsap Scholarship Organization Executive Director Michele Wasson and voice coach Candace Pullom, Przybylek chose to sing Eva Cassidy's rendition of "Blue Skies." She sang "Popular" at Miss Poulsbo/Miss Kitsap, a fast-paced, high-energy song.
"We kind of went a whole different way," Wasson said. "I said, 'You know what? We need to slow down and do something nice and elegant.'"
The plan worked — "Blue Skies" earned Przybylek a talent award and a chance to perform during Saturday's finale.
"I was so excited about that," she said. "I'm just excited I got to perform on final night, that made my world."
Stadshaug, 23, also nabbed two awards, the Miss America Community Service award and the Denise Vaughn Memorial award, worth $500 apiece. She, too, earned $2,000 in scholarships.
An avid Habitat for Humanity advocate — her Miss Poulsbo 2008 platform — Stadshaug has volunteers on a weekly basis around the county.
"I worked hard for those, so that was quite an honor," she said. "I was very excited to get both of them. I was hoping for at least one, so (winning) both definitely put a cap on a great week."
The Miss America Community Service award is voted on by Miss America judges and each recipient is eligible to enter the $5,000 national competition. Wasson called it a "huge" award.
Stadshaug also competed at Miss Washington in 2004, that year as Miss Kitsap.
"I was just excited to have the chance to come back again ... being able to get to know the girls. That's what's so great about having the whole group together, we have that chance to bond with everybody," she said. "That way it doesn't feel as much like a competition, because we have all these new friends and there's so much support. I'm just very pleased that I've had this opportunity, I'm very grateful for it."
In 2004, Stadshaug battled a right-foot fracture, making the on-stage events challenging. Both feet were healthy this year.
"That was definitely a highlight," she joked. "The rest was just a lot of fun."
Both Przybylek and Stadshaug said camaraderie amongst the contestants, and support in the audience, made the experience memorable.
"Just having all the supporters here, everyone from (Poulsbo), our family and friends, seeing them (in the audience) and being able to wave," Stadshaug said.
Though neither Przybylek nor Stadshaug took the Miss Washington 2008 crown, Wasson said the girls should be proud.
Contestants competed in swimsuit, evening wear, talent, on-stage and private interviews, all reviewed by a panel of judges.
"Both Amy and Samantha were fabulous in every phase of competition," she said. "They did such a great job, I'm so proud of them.
"All you can do is your personal best, and then it's up to the judges to decide what they like and what their choice is ... different day, different judges."
And while the Miss Washington run is over, both girls are just getting started with their services to Kitsap County.
Przybylek hopes to sponsor a tree in Festival of the Trees, while Stadshaug plans to continue her work with Habitat for Humanity.
"The great thing is I get to keep them and I don't split up the team," said Wasson, who has worked with both girls since March. "We're gonna gear up and have a ball, we'll be doing lots of appearances and just doing tons of things.
"They are the greatest team that I've ever had together just because they love each other so much and they enjoy each other's company. It's just a joy to be with them. I couldn't be prouder."