It’s not everyone who wears a sleeveless formal gown with bruises the size of salad plates covering her arms.
Fewer still are the women who would be eager to flaunt those wounds.
But for Stormy Keffeler of Monroe, the bruises on her arms were badges of honor. So when the judges at the pageant at which she was wearing the dress asked about them, she explained with pride that she won them while engaged in her other passion; playing professional football.
Stormy Keffeler, 19, is fond of leather jackets and platform heels. But she also loves wearing cleats.
The engaging and outgoing teen has been balancing her love of pageants and sports since she was a young girl.
She started entering pageants before she entered school, and to date has won more than 100 of them, she estimates.
Currently, her titles include International Jr. Miss Washington, Ultimate Grand Supreme Double Header Regal Majesty, Fabulous Faces Washington and Universal Miss 18-21 Grand Supreme.
But she also loved putting on uniforms.
“I was a catcher for 14 years playing softball,” she said.
She played softball all the way through school and went on to play at Olympic College.
Then she heard of an opportunity to combine both her striking looks and her athletic abilities.
She decided to try out for the Seattle Mist, a team that is part of an indoor women’s football league in which women play in cropped sports tops and shorts, as well as shoulder pads, rugby helmets and shin guards.
The women play on a 50-yard field with eight-minute quarters, and the referees they use are the same ones that officiate at major league football games.
There were about 500 girls trying out for 30 spots on the practice squad. Keffeler got one.
For the next year, she and the other women on the practice squad trained rigorously. Spots on the starting lineup were few, and only the best of the women on the squad would get to play during the short spring season.
Keffeler did all she could, working on upper body strength and cardio fitness. And years of being a catcher had left her with a bulkier musculature than she liked; she retrained her body to a sleeker, more streamlined shape. But she wasn’t sure she stood a chance.
“I almost lost hope,” said Keffeler. “During training camp I called my mom every night and cried about how hard it was and I didn’t know if I was going to make the team.”
Then she learned that not only did she make the team, she was a top choice, and she was made both center and linebacker.
Training kicked into overdrive. The team practices together three days a week and does additional team training on weekends.
The training is rough.
“I come out with a ton of bruises,” said Keffeler cheerfully, paging through photos on her phone to find the most gruesome examples of massive bruises on her legs. “Girls hit hard.”
It all pays off in the spring, when the team starts its four-game season, traveling to other cities in the U.S. and Canada and playing in front of crowds of 8,000 or more.
Her first game, Keffeler was beside herself with nerves.
“For days I couldn’t stop getting my hands to stop sweating,” she said.
But she did well, and May 4 she will travel to Ontario to play the L.A. team, then to New Orleans July 20 to play the Las Vegas team.
Through it all, she has kept up with her pageant hobby, as well.
She said her teammates think it’s funny.
“My quarterback calls me ‘Princess,’” she said. “As long as I’m producing and doing well on the field, they won’t complain about my pageants.”
The players don’t make money, but travel is paid for, and new opportunities have opened as a result of Keffeler’s team membership; a swimsuit company has approached her with a modeling deal and there are other modeling opportunities, as well.
Ultimately, she’d like to go back to college and finish a broadcast journalism degree.
But right now, she’s just making the most of her youth and athleticism.
“I’ve never been in such good shape in my life,” she said. “I could join the Marines.”