Sarah Ricks could hardly believe it when they called out her name.
"I screamed, and I could see my whole family just jumping in the air," the 21-year-old said. "I was crying. It was a surprise."
The competition that mid-June weekend in the Grand Showroom of the Casa Blanca Hotel in Mesquite, about an hour north of Las Vegas, was not without some moments of doubt, though.
It was, after all, the first time Ricks performed Barbra Streisand's "Don't Rain on My Parade" in front of judges.
And she was competing against four other talented, attractive women for the state title of Cinderella Woman Scholarship Pageant winner. And one of those other girls was creating tough competition for Ricks.
"My whole family thought she was going to win," she said.
When the competitors - one from Winnemucca, one from Jackpot, two from Las Vegas, and Ricks, a 2002 Carson High School graduate, representing the Carson City area - stood together in the ballroom, the judges called the winner's name.
Typically in a Cinderella Scholarship Pageant, the top five finalists are introduced and asked to repeat their talent portion and dress portion for the judges.
"Since there were only five of us, they just called out the winner," Ricks said.
She also won this year's Cameo Girl award, in which contestants are judged on their dress, stage presence, grooming, overall appearance and poise.
The Cinderella Scholarship Pageant was founded in 1976, and gives away more than $1.5 million annually in awards. At the end of Ricks' one-year reign as the state winner, she will receive a $1,000 stipend, a $500 savings bond and a cruise with the other state winners.
The scholarship offers competition in a wide range of divisions: age 3-6 is Tots; age 7-9 is Miniature Miss; age 10-12 is Miss; 13-17, the teen division; and 18-26, Cinderella Woman.
Ricks has been competing off and on for more than 10 years. She has trophies, crowns, scepters, medals, and pins - and a closet full of fancy dresses.
During the year, Ricks will travel with the state winners from the four younger divisions to preliminary contests for next year. As the state winner of the oldest division, she will emcee the events.
But competition isn't over for Ricks. Last weekend, she headed to Las Vegas for the national competition. There, over the next five days, she will compete for the national crown against some 40 other women.
"It's a good mix of modeling and competing and getting to make friends and have a good time," Ricks said.
The competition includes a talent, evening wear and business-wear portion, and interviews.
"They judge you constantly," Ricks said.
She will also compete for the national cameo title. If she wins the national title for Cinderella Woman, she will give up her state championship with the runner-up taking over.
"I'm really confident I'll be right up there with the other girls," she said.
Ricks works with children in a summer camp and is also a gymnastics teacher. She is married and wants to finish college to become an elementary school teacher. She credits her faith in God for her accomplishments.
Her experience in the pageant over the years has given her confidence to do just about anything, she said.
"Just being able to walk into a job and do an interview and not be nervous and fidgety. And getting to be in front of people all the times, it just builds confidence," Ricks said. "It's a great program for anyone to get involved with."
n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at email@example.com or 881-1219.
At a glance
• Ricks has swapped out the emerald green dress she wore to the state finals for a beaded light blue dress for the nationals.
• The national competition is today through Friday this week in Las Vegas.
• If she wins the national Cinderella Woman, she will give her state title to the runner-up. As National Cinderella Woman, she is required to wear a white gown to all official events.
• For more on the Cinderella Pageant, go to www.cinderellapageant.com.