Miss Mo. prepares for Atlantic City

Thursday, June 30, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:15 p.m. CDT, Sunday, June 29, 2008

Missouri’s contestant in the Miss America pageant started this year’s pageant bid as Miss Columbia.

But she’s never lived in Columbia.

On October 30, 2004, Stacie Cooley of Liberty was crowned Miss Columbia. Eight months later, she prematurely relinquished her reign in order to become the Show-Me State’s representative for the Miss America pageant.

The petite, good-natured 21-year-old went to school at Truman State University in Kirksville, where she graduated in three years, summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Health Science. She was Miss Kirksville for a year, but she did not win the Miss Missouri title last year. Because competitors can hold a city’s title only once, Cooley had to find another city in which to compete.

She chose Columbia after meeting Beth Riggert, Miss Columbia’s Executive Director, at last year’s Miss Missouri pageant.

The Miss Columbia pageant allows anyone 17 to 24 years old who either has residency in Missouri or has completed one full semester of school in Missouri to be eligible for the Miss Columbia title.

In 2004, only one out of the 15 Miss Columbia candidates was from Columbia; four went to school at MU.

“I didn’t know a lot about the city of Columbia actually (before the pageant),” Cooley said.

After earning her title, Cooley juggled her Miss Columbia duties with her senior-year college responsibilities in Kirksville.

She enjoyed volunteer time at West Boulevard Elementary, where she led a hip-hop aerobics class in physical education and spoke at a fifth-grade girls’ retreat.

Cooley, whose platform issue is “Physical Fitness in Children and Adolescents,” likes the energy and activity in Columbia. She has participated in the Arthritis Jingle Bell Run and the Mayor’s Bike and Wheel Challenge. She was also a part of Columbia’s Christmas parade.

Riggert, speaking of pageant winners, said it would be “unwise to not try to get involved in the community in which they’re a title holder.”

She said that judges take into account the city involvement of each competitor.

Cooley beat 35 other competitors from various Missouri cities vying for the Miss Missouri crown. Riggert had to miss the last day of the Miss Missouri pageant, and Cooley told her not to worry. “It’s not like I’m going to win,” she said.

But she did. She accrued the winning points from a complex scoring process: preliminary interview, onstage question, talent, evening wear, casual wear and judges’ composite scores. “I am still waiting for it to set in,” Cooley said.

Cooley will work out with a personal trainer, partake in weekly mock interviews, practice her jazz dance routine and shop for any new apparel needed for the Miss America pageant, Dye said.

While preparing for the Miss America pageant, Cooley must also perform duties to the state by appearing at places such as the Boonville pageant earlier this month and the Missouri State Fair on Aug. 21.

Miss Columbia became the Miss Missouri candidate in 1987 and 1988. The 1989 Miss Columbia became Miss Missouri and the 1990 Miss America.

Riggert said that Cooley is a “vivacious, spunky, fun and interesting young woman,” who she hopes will win the hearts of the Miss America judges.

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