Maeloni Ogle stood on the stage at Art Fuller Auditorium at Kennewick High School on Saturday night with eight other young women holding hands before the winner was announced.
She had worked for years for this moment, entering other competitions, working out with her dad and honing her gymnastic and dance skills.
But there was still that moment when the new Miss Tri-Cities 2015 was announced that she thought, “Wait a second. That’s my name,” she said.
“I’m so happy and feeling blessed,” she said Sunday afternoon.
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She will spend the next year representing the Tri-Cities at public events and preparing for the Miss Washington 2016 competition.
Ogle, 20, the daughter of Brandy and Dan Ball, is a 2012 graduate of Southridge High. She’s attending Columbia Basin College, where she is studying anatomy with a goal of becoming a physical therapist.
But she’s also enjoying work as an entertainer, exploring modeling and acting.
She was a featured extra in the Disney channel movie Cloud Nine, work an agent found for her. Watch for her as a party waitress, holding a tray and looking excited, about five minutes into the movie.
She modeled in New York Fashion Week events last year after entering a modeling competition in Portland. It was her first trip by herself, and she not only walked a runway and posed for photos for Chinese designers, but she learned to hail a cab and enjoyed a New York hot dog.
Twice she was runner up in the Miss Washington USA pageant.
She’s been interested in physical therapy since she hurt her knee as a high school senior in the midst of a gymnastic competition and cheerleading. With hard work, she’s been able to resume gymnastics, including coaching.
On Saturday night, she performed a dance with gymnastic elements, wowing the crowd with front and back walkovers and back handsprings.
It was the the result of seven years of gymnastic and dance training, plus six months of perfecting her current routine and getting exactly the choreography she wanted to showcase her passion. “I wanted to leave my heart out there,” she said.
She’s looking forward to publicly speaking as Miss Tri-Cities.
She will be focusing on spreading awareness about cystic fibrosis after becoming familiar with the challenges the lung disease presents after a young family friend was diagnosed.
During the off-stage interviews of the competition, she was asked about her role model. No question, she said it was her great-grandmother Mary Dickman, who lived in Benton City and then Kennewick until her death a year ago, she said.
Her great-grandmother lived each day to the fullest, Ogle said, even through a long bout with cancer. She faced her illness with grace, cracking jokes and making the family smile, Ogle said.
Ogle is ready for a year of hard work to prepare for the state competition, she said. That includes lifting weights and running, with her father reminding her that hard work brings rewards, she said.
She has also learned from her parents that the reward may not be a crown, but the learning that comes with the the effort, she said.
A highlight of the competition Saturday was an announcement by the Tri-City Water Follies Association that it is donating an additional $5,000 for scholarships. The Tri-City program already has ranked top in the state for its scholarship program, Ogle said.
This year, the program awarded cash and in-kind scholarships totaling $33,300 for the Miss Tri-Cities program and $5,500 in scholarships for the Miss-Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen program.
The first runner-up for Miss Tri-Cities was Tayler Plunkett, the daughter of Roy and Tammy Plunkett, and the second runner-up was Stefanie Maier, the daughter of Todd and Lori Maier.
Sarah Carlson, the daughter of Ron and Melanie Carlson, was named Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen. Runner-up was Sarah Niles, the daughter of Michael and Shannon Niles.