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Saturday, November 1, 2014 | Last updated: 4:42am

Miss Arizona falls short of Miss America crown, gains wisdom



Miss Arizona, Piper Stoeckel, may not be wearing this year’s Miss America crown, but she didn’t leave the competition empty handed.

Stoeckel, a former UA journalism studentwho postponed her graduation to compete in the Miss America pageant, competed alongside 53 women from all over the nation for the title of Miss America 2013 at Planet Hollywood Resort in Las Vegas on Jan. 12.

After 10 days of competition, with each day starting at 7 a.m. and ending at 10 p.m., Miss New York, Mallory Hytes Hagan, won the competition. Stoeckel’s journey may have ended sooner than she had
hoped, but she said she has no regrets.

“I would not change anything about my performance. I truly did the best I could do,” Stoeckel said, “That’s one thing that I left on the Miss America stage, I left Piper there, and I’m so happy that I did. If I had done something different from who I really am, I would be really upset right now. But because I was 100 percent myself, I’m happy.”

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By Tyler Besh / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tyler Besh / Arizona Daily Wildcat Current Miss Arizona, Piper Stoeckel, talks about the Miss America Pageant process and her future.

Stoeckel said that despite her performance, she had already predicted that she wouldn’t make it to the top 15.

“The crowd was screaming and I could see Arizona signs all around the audience. I knew at that moment that I wasn’t going to be a finalist, I just knew. And that is strange for me because I am such a competitive person,” Stoeckel said. “But I smiled and I knew this was going to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life. So I had two choices, to soak it in or to be hard on myself and take it for the competition factor. It was truly a defining moment in my life.”

For the remainder of the competition, the eliminated contestants were asked to stay on stage to watch the finalists compete. Stoeckel said she always thought it was an awful thing to do but now understands why it’s not.

“I spent the next 45 minutes watching the most incredible women compete for Miss America. In that moment, I knew that it was their time,” Stoeckel said, “I had to sacrifice a moment in my life for 15 other girls to have theirs and they are so deserving.”

All 50 of the United States, with the addition of the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, were represented in the competition. Stoeckel initially had a feeling that there might be a wall between each girl because of all that they had put into this competition, but it was the complete opposite, she said.

“We all have traveled the same journey for the past five months. In a sense, we all felt relieved to be together and to be sharing these memories with 52 other girls who are in the same exact boat,” she said, “It was empowering beyond belief. I cherish those memories more than anything.”

Since the Miss America competition ended, many of the girls have stayed in touch, Stoeckel added. She formed a strong bond with Miss Florida, Laura McKeeman, and Miss Colorado, Hannah Porter and they “still remain very close.”

For all the good moments the competition had, Stoeckel said there were challenging ones as well. The girls worked long days and underwent intensive preparation.

“We joke that they wear you down intentionally to see who still shines at the end of the week. It’s an endurance race and you truly have to get up every morning and say ‘All right, I need to work out again, I have to run my talent again, I have to go with my interview trainer again,’” Stoeckel said. “There were moments of tears, but I can truly say it is like training for the Olympics or studying for the bar exam. You need to be so committed every single day.”

Megan Alletson, a UA journalism senior and one of Stoeckel’s closest friends spoke highly of Stoeckel’s work ethic.

“She is probably the most driven person that I know. There isn’t a challenge that she isn’t afraid to take on,” Alletson said. “No matter what, she makes sure that she gets everything done but always has fun while she does it. She really is one of a kind.”

The main focus of the Miss America organization lies in service and scholarship, with millions of dollars given out every year to young women around the world. Alletson said she noticed a change in Stoeckel as she became more involved with the Miss America organization.

“I think working with less fortunate kids and witnessing people who struggle has made her that much more humble,” Alletson said. “She has grown up so much.”

Since Stoeckel was crowned Miss Arizona in June of 2012, she has served as an ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network, working with child abuse victims and volunteering with the Boys and Girls Clubs. Her focus for the next five months is to make stepping stones for her career, she said. Stoeckel will finish her last semester at the UA in the fall, majoring in journalism and minoring in dance. In the future, she said she would want to work for Arizona Athletics or have a sports career.

With new friendships formed and memories made, Stoeckel said the biggest lesson Miss America taught her was to be herself.

“There are so many moments where you want to doubt yourself, and you want to try to be like the girl who sits next to you in class or whoever, but you are who you are and just take that amazing gift and make the best of it.”


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