New Miss Tri-Cities to focus on education, communication

Tayler Plunkett, 19, was crowned Miss Tri-Cities 2016 on Saturday at Kennewick High School.
Tayler Plunkett, 19, was crowned Miss Tri-Cities 2016 on Saturday at Kennewick High School. Courtesy Art Blum

Win or lose, Tayler Plunkett said she was prepared for the next steps in her life.

“I felt very at peace with whatever was going to happen,” Plunkett said.

She stood onstage Saturday night with eight other contestants in the Miss Tri-Cities scholarship program and was announced as Miss Tri-Cities 2016.

Plunkett, 19, of Kennewick, is the daughter of Roy and Tamara Plunkett and a 2015 graduate of Southridge High School. At age 5, she was part of the Miss-Tri Cities Little Sisters program.

That’s when former Miss Tri-Cities 2002, Mischa Willis, first placed a crown on Plunkett’s head.

“From that moment on, I was enamored with becoming Miss Tri-Cities,” Plunkett said.

Willis stood out as a role model Plunkett could look up to in terms of approachability, and what Plunkett describes as a “down-to-earth” attitude.

I wasn’t just preparing for the competition. I was preparing for the lifestyle.

Tayler Plunkett, Miss Tri-Cities 2016

In 2010, Plunkett began to compete in the Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen competitions. She first won in 2012, and eventually went on to become Miss Washington Outstanding Teen in 2014.

This year, as Miss Tri-Cities, she’ll have a chance to compete for Miss Washington and Miss America.

Under her platform of “Invest in Your Future: Higher Education is Attainable,” Plunkett has worked with children between kindergarten through 12th grade to seek their own interests in the professional world.

She wants to get more students excited about their education, and introduce them to other professionals in the community, Plunkett said.

“They can see these role models that they may not have in their own life,” she said.

She is a student at Washington State University Tri-Cities working to obtain a master’s of speech and hearing sciences, who also works for the Gear Up program. She wants to become a pediatric speech therapist and specialist who works with autistic children.

Her brother, who has high-functioning autism, completed college and pursued his own career goals. Her interest in the field took off when she had a job shadow opportunity in high school.

“I know this was exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” she said.

As Plunkett steps in as Miss Tri-Cities, she’s most excited to speak in public and to meet the community.

“I wasn’t just preparing for the competition,” Plunkett said. “I was preparing for the lifestyle.”

She also gained some new perspectives along the way.

“Even if you don’t have the crown on, you still need to act like Miss Tri-Cities,” Plunkett said.

With community assistance, this year’s programs offered contestants more than $30,000 in scholarships, according to the Miss Tri-Cities 2016 program.

The first runner-up for Miss Tri-Cities was Hannah Mowry, the daughter of Doug and Aggie Mowry. The second runner-up was Madison Murphy, the daughter of Sean and Brenda Murphy.

Abby Faulk, the daughter of Brad and Heidi Faulk, was named 2016 Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen. Runner-up was Noël Anderson, the daughter of Brad and Nicole Anderson.

Miss Tri-Cities winners

▪ Miss Tri-Cities winner: Tayler Plunkett, 19

▪ First runner-up: Hannah Mowry, 19

▪ Second runner-up: Madison Murphy, 19

▪ Non-Finalist Interview (tie): Laura Howland, 22, and Sandra Guterriez, 20

▪ Miss Congeniality: Sandra Guterriez

▪ Health and Wellness: Laura Howland

▪ Four Points of the Crown: Hannah Mowry

▪ Top Talent, Interview and Living Your Platform: Tayler Plunkett

▪ Non-Finalist Talent, Spirit, Academic and Anita Nelson awards: Hailey Fisher, 17

Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen winners

▪ Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen: Abby Faulk, 16.

▪ Runner-up: Noël Anderson, 15

▪ Top Interview: Abby Faulk

▪ Talent (tie): Abby Faulk, Noël Anderson

▪ Spirit: Lacey Fisher, 13

▪ Miss Congeniality: Kennedy Bruce, 14

▪ Living Your Platform: Kennedy Bruce

▪ Academic: Kayla Guzman, 14