She’s only been doing pageants for about three years and can already boast a national title.
When Sultan resident Claire Sorgen traveled to Nashville, Tenn. in late July to participate in the America’s National Teenager Scholarship Organization’s (ANTSO) national pageant, she really didn’t anticipate returning with a national title. Despite her success earlier this year at the ANTSO state competition, which earned her the privilege of competing at the national pageant, she knew she’d be competing against girls from around the country.
The stakes would be higher.
But when they announced the 2015 ANTSO Miss Junior National Teenager, it was Claire’s name that they called.
“I was shocked; I was not expecting to win,” said Claire. “Everybody goes to win, but there are minimal people who expect to win. And I was definitely not expecting to win!”
Claire’s mom, Gini, accompanied her to Nashville, as did her younger sister, Lydia, to support her throughout the competition. The pageant, which began on July 22 and ran through July 28, was a combination of social events for the reigning state queens and their families, interspersed with production number rehearsals and several days of competition.
The contest began with a series of optional competitions. Claire participated in several optional categories including photogenic, talent and supermodel. She explained that she likes to use the optional competitions as an opportunity to practice being on stage so she’s not quite as nervous during the official competition.
Essentially, said Claire, optional competitions can be used as a method for getting warmed up and becoming accustomed to the feel of the stage.
“I get super stressed out,” said Claire. “It’s kind of just to get all the nerves out so you know what walking on stage is like.”
When competing for the title, the girls are judged on academics, community service, personal interview, evening gown, onstage question and personal expression. Optional results do not factor in to contestant’s final scores.
“You’re being judged, but not for the actual title,” explained Claire. “It doesn’t affect your overall score at all.”
Nerves aside, Claire won two different optional contests; supermodel and photogenic. For the talent competition she performed the Sonatina, Opus 36 No. 4, by Muzio Clementi. There was also another piano player, who performed ahead of Claire, and gave what Claire described as an amazing performance.
“As soon as she walked out and started playing, in my mind I’m thinking ‘There is no way I’m beating this girl, so I’m just going to go out there and have fun,’” explained Claire. “And I actually played the song better than I have any other time.”
She didn’t end up winning the talent optional, but she had a great time participating in the contest.
After a day of optional competitions, two days of title competitions commenced. The reigning state queens participated in an evening gown competition, answered an onstage question, performed in a production number, and competed in the personal expression category which consisted of modeling a pair of jeans they had decorated in a way that was representative of their personalities.
As the competition progressed, the number of finalists dwindled. In Claire’s junior division she made top eight. Then she made top five.
At that point, Claire explained that all the contestants were required to answer an additional onstage question, but this time with a twist. The prospective national queens each had to draw their own questions randomly out of a bowl and answer it totally off-the-cuff.
“So it’s a random question that someone posted on Twitter or Facebook,” said Claire. For her question, she was asked to explain why academic excellence is important. “Mine was honestly the easiest question out of all the junior questions.”
For Claire, who managed to maintain a 4.0 grade point average consistently throughout her three years at Sultan Middle School, this was not a burdensome topic upon which to expound.
“I strive for academic excellence,” said Claire. “I’m a 4.0 student and so this was just a simple question. It’s so important because it helps you get far in life.”
Claire’s mom, Gini, couldn’t have been more impressed with her daughter’s performance.
“It is extremely difficult to stand on a stage in front of hundreds of people, pull a random question from a bowl, form an instantaneous answer and then answer that question knowing you are being judged,” said Gini. “When she finished her question, I knew she had done her very best and that was all I could ask for.”
After all the girls answered their second onstage question, the judges began to call the girls’ names in order of how they placed. Claire listened intently for her name as they called fourth runner up, third runner up, second runner up; she was prepared to be at peace with whatever the result because her goal had simply been to make top five.
“I had already made top five so I was fine with whatever placement I got,” said Claire. “I loved all the girls so I was fine with whoever won.”
Even in the last few seconds, she didn’t expect to hear her own name when they announced the new Miss Junior National Teenager.
“I was floored,” said Claire. “It was amazing; I was just so happy!”
Her mom was excited, as well.
“As the night progressed and she made top eight then top five I was just more and more proud of her,” said Gini. “When it was down to the final two young ladies, I still couldn’t grasp that she might actually win but when they called the first runner up I could not stop smiling. It was so fun to watch her face as she began to realize that she won. It was a super exciting night!”
Claire will be responsible for representing ANTSO over the next year and will travel across the country, making appearances and performing volunteer work. She will also serve as an ambassador for the Boys and Girls Club of America.
The 14-year-old Sultan High School freshman is looking forward to the upcoming school year as well as representing her title. The assiduous teenager is eager to work towards creating a balance between her school work, sports, her role as freshman class vice president and her ANTSO commitments.
“My 4.0 GPA,” said Claire. “That’s my main goal.”
She is especially excited about being invited to attend the Miss America Pageant which will take place in Atlantic City in mid-September. Also as a part of winning the ANTSO national competition, Claire will be the recipient of several thousand dollars of scholarship funding which will be used to help pay for her college education.
“I’m just super excited,” said Claire. “My first pageant was Gold Dust Days and I got first runner-up and I thought that was just fantastic. I had a tiara and a trophy and I loved it…This is just my thing!”
For more information on the ANTSO pageant program, please visit: http://nationalteen.com/.