Miss Florida wins

Christina O'Neill, Empire elementary school music teacher and Miss Nevada, lost the Miss America pageant Saturday evening.

Miss Florida, Ericka Dunlap, beat out O'Neill and 48 other rivals Saturday in a pageant that featured some of the brainiest contestants that judges said they have seen in years.

O'Neill was crowned Miss Nevada in June after four attempts at the title. She has been absent from her classes since Sept. 6 when she flew to Washington D.C. to compete for the crown. O'Neill was not one of the pageant's fifteen finalists.

O'Neill, a first-year teacher, said in an earlier interview that she would not be disappointed if she wasn't crowned because she is already achieving her goals.

"I have wanted to be a teacher since I was five years old," she said. "This has been truly a dream come true for me."

The former Miss Florida wins a rhinestone tiara, a runway walk, $50,000 in scholarship aid, a yearlong national speaking tour and -- after it -- the permanent tag of "former Miss America."

Miss Hawaii Kanoelani Gibson was first runnerup and Miss Wisconsin Tina Sauerhammer was second runnerup. Miss Maryland Marina Harrison and Miss California Nicole Lamarche rounded out the final five.

The daughter of a roofing contractor and a nurse, Dunlap aspires to go to law school when she graduates and become an attorney specializing in sports and entertainment.

Dunlap defeated rivals with impressive academic credentials.

Sauerhammer is already an M.D. at age 22; Miss Virginia Nancy Redd and Miss Rhode Island Laurie Gray, are both recent Harvard University graduates; and Miss New Mexico Rana Jones, is a second-year law student.

Dunlap was crowned by Miss America 2003 Erika Harold, 23, of Urbana, Ill., who won the title last year after delaying her entry to Harvard Law School.


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