Story by Paige Effinger, Contributing writer
As the master of ceremonies announced the winner, tears instantly began rolling down Tori Wood’s face as she was crowned Miss Murray State 2017.
Wood, junior from Symsonia, Kentucky, received the crown from Rachel Ross on Saturday, April 8 in Lovett Auditorium.
Wood, who also participated in the pageant last year and won Most Photogenic, got her time in the spotlight as she strutted down the stage as not only the new Miss Murray State, but also the recently elected Student Government Association president.
“I never thought this moment would come,” Wood said. “I’m so grateful for this, and if I could go back and tell myself that I would do something like this I wouldn’t even believe it.”
Miss Murray State is a scholarship pageant that features 15 ladies. Many different organizations on campus nominate women to be part of the event. These women complete an application and they also have an interview. Based on their application and interview, the top 15 contestants are chosen.
Before the pageant started on Saturday evening, the top 15 contestants had an interview with the judges and presented them with a one-minute speech. During the pageant Saturday evening, the contestants went through an evening gown portion. The judges chose the top five finalists based off of these three trials.
Haley Goff, junior at Murray State and director of the pageant this year, said the top 15 finalists were an amazing group of women.
“The top 15 finalists were incredible,” Goff said. “They were so fun to work with, so energetic, so willing to work hard and it was such an incredible experience.”
When the ladies first paraded down the catwalk, the stage was filled with brilliantly-colored dresses on everything from sparkly eye-catching dresses, to soft, flowing gowns. The ladies were accompanied by escorts, and their biographies were read by the masters of ceremonies Clint Combs and Nathan Payne, former SGA president and vice president respectively, as the ladies gracefully walked down the stage.
As the judges tabulated their results from the evening gown portion, entertainment for the evening was given by Murray State’s Cloud9 acapella group. Cloud9 is a division of the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia.
After the judges announced the five finalists, the ladies read their one-minute speeches to the audience that they gave prior in the evening to the judges.
Rachel Ross, senior from Murray State and Miss Murray State 2016, took her final parade down the stage as her final speech was playing over the auditorium’s speakers. Ross said that her favorite part about being Miss Murray State was being able to participate in all of her hometown parades.
“My experience as Miss Murray State was wonderful. People are so supportive. It makes me feel so warm and welcomed in the community,” Ross said. “ I’ll be sad to let it go, but it was a great year.”
Ross said in her speech that she has been looking up to the ladies in this pageant since she was a child watching from her seat in the auditorium. For her, reigning as Miss Murray State was a dream come true.
“I got to to do a lot of things that other Miss MSUs might not be able to do because of location,” Ross said. “Being able to be a local face for Murray State was such a special thing for me.”
Now that her reign as Miss Murray State has ended, she plans on pursuing her career in agricultural business.
The winner of the pageant receives a $850 scholarship and becomes a face for the university. Wood said she is ready to jump into her duties as the new Miss Murray State.
“With this position, I want to bring the student’s voice out into the community and make an impact on everyone who I can in a positive way,” Wood said.
Wood said this pageant resembles everything that it means to be a hardworking college student. She said this is about finding smart women who can represent Murray State in a positive way.
As Ross graduates in May, she said she feels very comfortable handing her position over to Wood. She said she and Wood have grown close through these pageants, and thinks Wood will be a great leader on our campus. Before she walks down a different stage at graduation, she has left some reassuring words for the new Miss Murray State.
“Enjoy every single minute,” Ross said.