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Ashley Shaffer crowned Miss New Jersey at Ocean City Music Pier - Ocean City Sentinel: Arts & Entertainment

Ashley Shaffer crowned Miss New Jersey at Ocean City Music Pier

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Posted: Thursday, June 25, 2009 1:00 am

The three-day Miss New Jersey Pageant wrapped up Saturday night, when Miss Columbus Day Ashley Shaffer found herself named as the state titleholder.

To say her reaction was shock would be an understatement.

Shaffer, 22, of Millstone Township (Monmouth County), was visibly stunned to hear her name called as the new Miss New Jersey. The tears had already begun when she found herself in the top three, then top two finishers. Winning the title appeared almost too much for Shaffer to fathom, as she dropped almost to her knees, mouth gaping and speechless.

Even after the crown was on her head and she had done the traditional runway walk, Shaffer still was trying to comprehend she was the new Miss New Jersey. While hugging her fellow contestants and posing for a myriad of photographs, she kept repeating, “I can’t believe it,” and was visibly shaking.

Finally the concept appeared to take root, as Shaffer shouted to family and friends in the crowd, “I’m going to Miss America!”

The pageant came down to Ashley versus Ashleigh, as Shaffer and first runner up Ashleigh Udalovas, competing as Miss Cumberland County, stood hugging each other waiting to hear whose name would be announced.

After her own crowning, Shaffer admitted she expected Udalovas to be the winner.

“She’s so talented, she’s so beautiful,” Shaffer said. “I really expected it to be Ashleigh. I can’t believe it’s me.”

Adding an unusual twist, Shaffer’s win found the outgoing Miss New Jersey Ashley Fairfield – who competed as Miss Columbus Day last year – crowning the new Ashley, also competing as Miss Columbus Day.

It shouldn’t have come as such a surprise to anyone who had watched the preliminary rounds. On Friday night, Shaffer won the evening gown competition in a strapless flowing white gown with heavy beading at the top, as well as splitting the swimsuit win in an orange bikini. In the talent competition, she sang “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s “Turandot.” She also received the Miss New Jersey Photogenic Award.

Shaffer will now represent the Garden State in the Miss America Pageant, which takes place in late January at the Planet Hollywood Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.

With her win, Shaffer receives her crown and crown box, speech training, gift certificates for many businesses, jewelry and her flowers. She is also eligible for scholarships, cash awards and services valued at $18,600. For her preliminary swimsuit and evening wear wins, she received monetary prizes as well.

Last year, competing as Miss Liberty, Shaffer made “Top 10” in the pageant.

First runner up was Ashleigh Udalovas, Miss Cumberland County. Udalovas danced a rousing tap routine to the “Pink Panther” theme as recorded by Bobby McFerrin in the talent portion. As first runner up, she receives $4,000 in scholarships and awards. Udalovas won the pageant’s Overall Interview Award, a community service award, the People’s Choice and the Miss Congeniality awards as well. Udalovas was second runner up in 2008 and 2007.

Cape May County was well represented in the pageant, with six of the 25 contestants – and two of the top five – local.

Second runner up was Katie Hope of Marmora, competing as Miss Coastal Shore. Hope, 24, split the swimsuit preliminary on Friday night with Shaffer, in a bright yellow bikini. In talent, she sang Melissa Manchester’s “Don’t Cry Out Loud.” As second runner up, she receives $3,000 in scholarships. This was Hope’s fourth time competing in the Miss New Jersey Pageant, including a third runner up finish last year as Miss Seashore Line.

Third runner up was Kristi Pawlus, of Cape May Court House, competing as Miss Avalon. Pawlus won the talent preliminary on Thursday night, singing Celine Dion’s “I Surrender,” and won the $1,000 academic scholarship from the Miss America Organization. For her finish, she receives $2,000 in scholarships and awards. She also received the John L. Simon Medical Award. Pawlus also won first place in the parade competition Wednesday, which does not contribute toward the pageant results, clinging to a buoy with a shark chomping on her leg. Pawlus, 24, had top ten finishes in 2007 and 2008 as well, also winning a talent prelim last year, and has competed in the Miss New Jersey Pageant every year since 2003.

Fourth runner up was Miss Mercer County Katie Berry, age 20. She receives $1,000 in scholarships and awards. She performed a ballet en pointe to “A Wonderful Guy” from “South Pacific” in the talent competition. In preliminary competition, she won the evening gown competition and split the swimsuit win Thursday night. She also won the Miss America Organization Community Service Award, a $1,000 prize. Berry is no stranger to either the Music Pier stage or crowns on her head. She was Little Miss Ocean City 1999, and then was the state’s first Miss New Jersey Outstanding Teen in 2005, going on to compete in that national competition.

Rounding out the top ten were:

Miss Brigantine Kayla Ghanavati, of Upper Township. The Ocean City High School graduate performed an operatic selection in the talent competition.

Miss Camden County Brianna Durand, who sang “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Miserables.”

Miss Stars and Stripes Melissa Ruiz, who danced to “Love You I Do” from the soundtrack of “Dreamgirls.” She also won the Connie Briglia Memorial Miss New Jersey Spirit Award, a $750 prize.

Miss Tri-County Kaitlin Davis, who sang Celine Dion’s “If I Could,” in the talent competition.

Miss Shore Resort Venessa Baez, who sang “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” from “Funny Girl.” Baez, 20, was also a top ten finisher in 2008.

Also competing were:

Miss All-State Jackie Mercandetti;

Miss Atlantic County Krysten Gavigan, of Cape May;

Miss Cape Shores Jachele Velez, who won a non-finalist interview award;

Miss Cape May County Danielle Greene, of Ocean City. Greene finished 3rd in the parade costume competition;

Miss Central Coast Nychole Hunt;

Miss Champaign Springs Teena Amador, who won the Legal Scholarship Award;

Miss Gateway Carissa Palumbo;

Miss Gloucester County Sammi-Jo Danze;

Miss Heartland Angelica Nardi, who was a preliminary swimsuit winner Thursday night, and 2nd place winner in the parade costume competition. She also won a non-finalist eveningwear award;

Miss Liberty Maggie May Sabota. She also won the Florence Paarone Memorial Miss New Jersey Spirit Award;

Miss Monmouth County Jeannie Revier;

Miss Queen City Gretchen Bruesehoff, a graduate of Ocean City High School. Bruesehoff won the preliminary talent competition Friday night. She also won a non-finalist talent award;

Miss Salem County Olivia Jennings, who won the preliminary community service award Thursday night;

Miss Seashore Line Chelsea-Lee Ray;

Miss Washington Township Kellilyn Casey, who won the preliminary Community Service Award Friday night.

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