NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — The sash has been passed. Mariah Cook is the new Miss Nebraska.
The Chadron State College senior may have to postpone her plans to student teach at Madison Middle School in North Platte this fall as she travels around the state promoting her platform on the power of adoption.
Outgoing Miss Nebraska Kayla Batt crowned her successor at the end of Saturday's contest, the culmination of three days of competition.
“Growing up, I never felt like I fit in,” Cook told the judges. “I was too tall, too loud and adopted.”
Participation in the Miss Nebraska program has helped with confidence and self-esteem, she said.
In front of a near-capacity crowd at the North Platte High School Performing Arts Center, Cook performed her original composition “The Anthem” on the piano, after winning the preliminary talent competition earlier in the week. On Saturday, Cook was named the overall winner in the interview portion of the competition.
Cook is the daughter of Allen and Leanne Cook. She will represent Nebraska during the Miss America competition in January 2013.
This year's Miss Nebraska's court:
» First runner-up Mindy Schreiber. The Columbus native received first prize in community service, winning the Hastings Princess Memorial Community Service Award. Schreiber also won the overall evening-wear award.
» Second runner-up Rachel Foehlinger. Foehlinger also received the overall talent award for her baton routine.
» North Platte's Meghan Thalken was third runner-up.
» Fourth runner-up Katrina Poppert. Poppert also earned the runner-up community service award, given in memory of Bobby Foehlinger.
Other awards presented Saturday included the overall dancer award, given to Chrissy Townsend. Megan Dimmitt received the nonfinalist interview award, and the nonfinalist talent award went to Kimberly Brennan.
The 2012 Volunteer of the Year award was presented to Kathy Worley. Maris Shad was honored for 30 years of service to the Miss Nebraska program, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
Saturday night's final competition included performances by past Miss Nebraskas, including Miss Nebraska 1942 Claire Buglewicz Leeper. Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan presented Leeper with a certificate from the Miss America Association thanking her for her service to the program. Scanlan also presented a certificate to pageant co-directors Jay and Amy Engel, recognizing the 75 years of Nebraska participation in the pageant.
At a competition earlier on Saturday, Sandhills Outstanding Teen Lianna Prill was named the 2012 Miss Nebraska Outstanding Teen.
The Holdrege native is the daughter of Scott and Kristin Prill. The 17-year-old received her crown from outgoing titleholder Brooke Ludemann.
Prill will represent the state at the national Outstanding Teen contest in Orlando, Fla., in August.