Miss Maine crowned; Miss America class of 2017 kicks off

Marybeth Noonan became the first woman in the Miss America class of 2017, when she was crowned the 80th Miss Maine on April 23.

Noonan, 20, is from Raymond, and attends Lyndon State College. She was first runner-up at Miss Maine 2015, and said the taste of that near-win inspired her to work much harder, so she devoted the last year to improving in all phases of competition.

“I put in 8 million times more effort than I put in last year,” she said. “I dedicated myself to this. I took a semester off from school, because I was going to school out of state, so I could be home and I could dedicate myself to this program. I flew to Kansas City to work with people. I flew to New York City to work with people. My life was this, because this was my life-long dream.”

Having also won the overall talent and swimsuit awards, when she heard hear name announced as the new Miss Maine, a flood of emotion took over.

“It was incredible. Instant tears. I was so grateful,” Noonan said, adding that she’s beyond excited to go to Atlantic City in September and compete for the Miss America crown.

“It’s going to be the best [time] of my life, and I already know that,” she said. “I’ve been wanting for so long to put Maine on the map and I’m so thankful to have the chance to do that.”

National crown or not, Noonan said she also has the goal of reaching out to more people in her home state.

“I’m looking forward to traveling around Maine, and getting to meet as many people as possible,” she said. “I’m really passionate about my platform, Be Their Voice, which is childhood cancer research, and I want to make that a cause that is spread state-wide.”

First runner-up was Katherine Rushlau of Dresden, who is a student at Emerson College.

Madison Leslie, a 16-year-old from Lewiston, who attends Saint Dominic Academy, won the title of Miss Maine’s Outstanding Teen at the same competition. Sixteen-year-old Celine Baker of Windham was first runner-up. Leslie said she was shocked to win her first-ever pageant.

“I was really surprised, really excited,” Leslie said, adding that performing her talent was her favorite part of the competition, and the phase in which she felt most confident. She also had a superbly confident answer to the on-stage question she was given about the U.S. Women’s Soccer team’s fight for equal pay.

“I think it’s a great idea, because the women’s soccer team has won more championships, so they should have the same amount of pay as the men, if not more,” was Leslie’s reply.

Leslie said she enjoyed the experience with the other contestants.

“It was wonderful,” she said. “They were so sweet and so supportive.” About heading to Orlando this summer for the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen competition, Leslie said, “I’m pumped.”

In Maine, Leslie said she hopes to encourage other kids to explore opportunities and take chances, as it worked out pretty well for her so far.

For more information, visit www.missmaine.org.

For more photos, visit www.stevephotographysmith.com.

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