Caitlin McCrary crowned Miss UNA

Brooke J. Freundschuh and Quin Norris

Caitlin Hope McCrary, a senior from Double Springs, Ala. was crowned 2020’s Miss UNA at Florence Middle School on Saturday, Jan. 25.

As the winner of the Miss UNA Pageant, McCrary will represent UNA at the Miss Alabama 2020 competition in Birmingham at Samford University’s Wright Center June 3-6. Being Miss UNA also comes with many additional perks, such as a free year of tuition and a custom ring from the headline sponsor Creative Jewelers.

This year’s 46th annual Miss UNA pageant, named “The Greatest Show On Earth,” saw thirteen contestants compete in four stages: interview, on-stage question, talent and evening wear. The pageant was hosted by Miss Alabama 2019 and finalist for Miss America Tiara Pennington and Miss UNA 2019 Keely Templeton.

For the first time, the pageant was held at Florence Middle School, instead of the university’s own Norton Auditorium.

“[Florence Middle School was] more than accommodating,” said Tyler Thompson, director of the Miss UNA Pageant for the last eight years. “They treated all of us like we were special guests. They were very gracious letting us use their spaces.”

The Miss UNA pageant cultivates positive relationships between its contestants. Hosts Pennington and Templeton shared stories of how they had grown up in pageants together.

“We had rehearsal every night allowing me to get close to all the other girls,” said Caitlin Hope McCrary, winner of the 2020 Miss UNA Pageant. “The pageant never felt like a competition.”

Including friendship, the Miss America organization puts an emphasis on the scholarship of its participants.

“I gained a lot of knowledge,” said Shanise Allen who won Miss Congeniality.

The talent portion highlighted each contestants individual abilities. Singing and dancing were the most common talents displayed, but each performance was distinct.

The vocal performances spanned many genres and time periods. Aleya Gilley performed Annie Lennox’s “I Put a Spell on You.” Maggie Freeman incorporated American Sign Language into her vocal performance of Colbie Caillat’s “Brighter than the Sun.” Audrey Johnson performed a Broadway styled rendition of Carole King’s  “So Far Away.”

Different styles of dance were showcased. Megan Cook self-choreographed a dance to Gabrielle Aplin’s “Home.”

“I’ve been choreographing my own dances for a little while, but this ones special to me,” Cook said.

Contestants also danced to hip hop and jazz, and Laurel Ann Butz ultimately took home the talent award for her dance to Gloria Estefan’s “Conga.”

Miranda Monroe showcased her

athletic side, as she demonstrated her volleyball skills, and Caitlin Hope McCrary performed an autobiographical monologue about her desire to educate and nurture special needs students in her career.

For the evening wear portion of the contest, each contestant was given the opportunity to advocate for a cause that was close to their heart.

Megan Cook’s chosen cause was as close to home as it could be, as she advocated for children in the Alabama foster care program. Her parents have fostered over 50 children since 2012, all of whom she loves as her own siblings.

“I’ve seen the positive impact that my parents have had on these children and I want to do the same thing when I grow up and be like my parents,” Cook said. “You can really change so many children’s lives letting them stay in your home for a night or for a few years.”

Audrey Johnson, who serves as the managing editor of the Flor-Ala, used her platform to advocate for newspaper programs in schools.

Fighting hunger, dyslexia, music

and art education, mental health awareness and suicide prevention were other issues contestants championed.

Miss UNA also partnered with Rising Star, an organization for young girls who participate in pageants, to give them mentors in the miss UNA competition.

In the end, Shanise Allen earned the award for Miss Congeniality.

“Its just being friendly to people and thats what I always try to do, so I was very honored to be nominated by the young ladies I communicated with.”

In addition to the year of tuition that is granted to the winner, the second and third runner ups are awarded a quarter year’s scholarship. The first runner up is awarded half of a year’s tuition.

Aleya Gilley was awarded first runner up and the title of most outstanding service. Maggie Freeman was selected second runner up; Laurel Ann Butz earned third runner up; and Caitlin Hope McCrary was crowned Miss UNA 2020.