Tag Archive | baseball

Rookie Of The Year

A National League pennant on the line. The phone rings; you’re warm. The wall swings open, and with 41,000 fans watching in person and millions more on TV, you jog out, alone, to the pitcher’s mound.

The only thing more nervewracking that than? Being 8+ months pregnant, in the stands, and that pitcher is your HUSBAND.

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By the time Brian Duensing reached his 26th birthday, he had quite the resume: College World Series Athlete, 3rd Round MLB Draft Pick, World Cup Gold Medalist, Olympic Bronze Medalist. He and his wife, Lisa, balanced their time between their hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, and …. wherever Brian’s baseball career sent them. Rochester, where Brian played for the Triple-A Red Wings; Beijing, where he represented Team USA; maybe Fort Myers, Florida for Spring Training?

The one place the Duensings hadn’t set up shop was Minneapolis, the home of the Minnesota Twins and the team that had drafted Brian a few years prior. Even though Brian had assignments with all four of the club’s farm teams, he and Lisa knew that many players spend their entire careers in Minor League baseball, never making it to the Majors.

Photo courtesy Charles Krupa for Twin Cities Pioneer Press

The Twins prepared for the 2009 season, led by their All Stars and Silver Sluggers, Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer.

“We’re still learning,” Mauer told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reporter Phil Miller. “We still always talk about pitchers, about different approaches, how the ball is moving, things like that. We’re left-handed, so pitchers tend to have the same plan against us.”

They say Three’s Company… and it just so happens, Brian Duensing is a leftie, too.

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“I had the best Spring Training of my career,” remembers Brian, looking back on the weeks he spent in Fort Myers, Florida early in 2009. “I didn’t give up a run. I had like, a week of Spring Training left and the running joke between me and Phil Humber was ‘they tell you anything yet?’ ‘No… they tell you anything yet?’ ‘No..’ No one was saying anything to us. We had no idea what was going on.”

Just a few years prior, Brian told Lisa he wanted to quit baseball. It was too much; the constant travel and unknowns of minor league ball, the sleeping on couches and in kitchens with roommates, and the lingering fear of not staying in Triple A to make enough money for rent. (Need a recap? Click here!)

Lisa, Brian’s parents, and a well-timed Nebraska blizzard all helped convince Brian to keep trying.

“I always told myself four years,” says Brian. “I’ll give it four years and if I don’t make it to the Big Leagues, I’m done. I gave it a shot.”

Two years after that decision, Brian was out to dinner with teammates Nick Blackburn and Rob Delaney the night before the last day of Spring Training.

“I get a phone call from <Twins pitcher> Glen Perkins and he’s like, ‘hey man, congrats!'” said Brian. “I was like, ‘what? What’s going on?’ ‘Numbers-wise, you’re in, you made the team.’ I don’t know how it works, I’m just here to play baseball! I start calling everybody: parents are screaming, Lisa is screaming. On the way home, I realize, ‘holy crap. No one has actually physically told me I’m on the team. So now I’m panicked. I just called everybody, told them I was, this could be really bad.”

Lisa, Brian’s best friend and constant source of optimism, stayed positive – and BUSY.

“At this point, I had gone home to pack up our stuff because we didn’t know what was going to happen,” remembers Lisa. “That next morning, I had to start driving with an Expedition full of stuff, starting my way to Minnesota, not knowing if he had actually made it. We thought, worst case scenario I’ll turn around and come back home. But if I hadn’t gone right away, he wouldn’t have had anyone to pick him up, he wouldn’t have anywhere to live, no clothes, nothing.”

Alone, nervous, and a little hungover, Brian arrived at his last day of Spring Training.

“I walk in, sweating, and I sit down by my locker trying to keep it together,” remembers Brian. “Two seconds later, pitching coach pops his head in, ‘Duens, need you in the office now.'” They sit me down. ‘Listen, you had a great Spring Training. Couldn’t ask for anything more. Unfortunately, we can’t take everyone with us.'”

“I’m pretty sure I blacked out,” remembers Brian. “I’m like… oh my gosh. How am I going to make this phone call? Then they said, ‘good thing is though, you’re not one of them. You’re going to Minnesota with us.”

“For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you.” 1 Thessalonians 1:4

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ROOKIE OF THE YEAR, Thomas Ian Nicholas, 1993. TM and Copyright © 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved. Courtesy: Everett Collection.

Remember Rookie of the Year? The awesome baseball movie from the 90’s you say you’ve never seen but secretly watched a dozen times? No shame – I love this movie. BUT… I must have missed that part in the movie when Henry Rowengartner gets the standard rookie treatment from his new teammates.

“I was not nervous about baseball. I wasn’t nervous about pitching. I wasn’t nervous about facing big league hitters,” says Brian, the ONLY rookie on the Minnesota roster in 2009. “I was nervous about sitting in someone’s seat. Or making the wrong person mad. Or not following road trip protocol.”

Brian’s first test came early: his first flight to Minnesota, just hours after finding out he’d made the team.

“Mike Redmond asks, ‘what kind of carry-on do you have?’ I was like, I have a laptop bag?” says Brian. “Redmond’s like ‘that’s not gonna do. Find a way. There’s two cases of beer back there and they need to go on the plane.'”

At that point, Redmond, sharing catcher duty for the Twins with Mauer, was an 11-year league veteran and 2003 World Series champion, known for skillfully guiding pitchers and for his leadership within the team. Mike spoke; players listened.

“The thing is, everyone liked Brian from the beginning because he appreciated those rules,” says Lisa. “He respected the unwritten rules.”

Back to that first plane ride; Brian found two trash bags, loaded up what he could, and boarded the Twins team bus in a suit, carrying a laptop bag and 36 pounds of beer.

“‘See so and so? Go sit next to him’,” remembers Brian. “I am sweating profusely because I’m carrying 48 beers, I’m hot, I’m nervous, my suit fit terribly and I was pitting out like you wouldn’t believe. We pull up on the tarmac, and all of the sudden it occurs to me, ‘are these guys messing with me? Am I going to get cavity searched because I have all this beer?’ We get to security and the guy rips open the trash bags – not just unties the bags, he shreds them. He says ‘you’re joking, right? These aren’t three ounces or less!’ I’m like, ‘ummm, ummm, ummm…’ and he says ‘I’m messing with you, get on the plane.’”

“I walked onto that plane with 48 beers. I walked off the plane with 45 beers. I’m like, are you kidding me!?!” Remembers Brian. “Mike Redmond’s like, ‘I don’t care if you bring 15 beers or if you bring 100 beers. We run out of beers, and it is the end of you.’ I’m like, ‘Cool. Got it.’ I bought a new suitcase for it. Redmond, one of the greatest guys ever, but he was like ‘Duens, there better be two Bud Lights in my locker at the end of each game. Every single game.’ I’m like ‘alright, great.’ 90 percent of the time I remembered. A few times, where the bullpen was, I couldn’t get there in time and he would just air me out. Later, he was a Manager for the Marlins, then coaching for Colorado, and every time we played against them I had two Bud Lights ready.”

Brian Duensing made his Major League Baseball debut on April 10, 2009 against the Chicago White Sox. Temperature at game time: 46-degrees.

“It was freezing,” remembers Brian. “AJ Pierzynski was the first hitter I faced. I broke his bat, jam job to first base, he dog-cussed me the whole way, out loud. Every name in the book. Morneau fielded the ball, tossed it to me, 3-1 put out. I whipped my head around like ‘what is this guy’s problem??’ Morneau was laughing and said, ‘relax. You’ll understand someday.’ That was just how AJ played.”

Brian’s family was all in Chicago to see his big league debut in person. Brian’s parents drove from Minneapolis to Kansas to drop off grandparents, and then turned around and drove to Chicago for the White Sox series. Somehow they knew their son was going to throw. Lisa had also driven cross country just days before from Florida to Minnesota, only to leave Minnesota immediately to watch her husband’s new team.

“I remember driving into town with my parents,” remembers Lisa. “My Dad could not handle Chicago traffic, we didn’t know how to get anywhere, hurrying to get to the game.”

Brian threw almost four innings in relief that day; he gave up his first home run to Carlos Quentin, struck out his first batter, Brian Anderson, and picked off a runner at second.

“It hit me on the run in because I couldn’t feel my legs,” remembers Brian. “That’s when I knew; I was like, ‘oh my God, what is happening. Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. I felt like Rookie of the Year; ‘oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!’ I was freaking out.”

The Twins won that day 12-5; it was Easter weekend. As they prepared for their next series against the Toronto Blue Jays, Brian was sent back to Triple-A.

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” — Isaiah 41:10

After so much excitement and hope, the Duensings were back in Rochester.

“I’m trying to set up an apartment, wondering, ‘should I even be setting up an apartment?’ Remembers Lisa. “Just like Brian, if he would have one bad game, he would call his Academic Advisor back at Nebraska and say there was no way he was going to make it, he needed to finish his degree. That happened for a few years, and she stopped responding to him.”

July 2009: Rochester had a road trip to Buffalo, so Lisa went along and the two used an off day to visit a casino at Niagara Falls. The next day, Brian was called into the team office – he was being called back up to Minnesota.

“It was out of the blue to us,” says Lisa.” We were living in a hotel. I drove Brian to Rochester to get all of his stuff, then back to Buffalo to make his flight, all in just a few hours. Then I packed up our entire life so I could drive through the night to Minneapolis. I drove by myself for 16 hours, thinking, ‘ok, we were here for 9 days and he threw once or twice, whatever.’ First game, pitcher got pulled it the third inning and here comes Brian, bases load, no outs, Yankees.”

Photo courtesy John Autey for Twin Cities Pioneer Press

“I come in and the first guy I face is Mark Texiera,” says Brian. “He popped it up infield. In my head, I’m thinking, I’m one pitch away from getting out of this jam, and I’m gonna freaking fist bump everyone. Then… Alex Rodriguez. I’m like, holy shit, I completely forgot he is on deck. He hits a freaking missile to center and Carlos Gomez robs him of a grand slam, over the fence.”

“No, we’re not joking,” adds Lisa. “The opening of Sportscenter featured Gomez catching that ball.”

Brian ended the inning and solidified his spot on the Minnesota Twins’ roster in 2009.

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” — Proverbs 3:3

After five years of constant moving and uncertainty, living in kitchens and hotel rooms, hoping and praying together and apart.. the Duensing finally found home in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Brian’s first starting outing: in Minneapolis at the Metrodome, the only year Brian played there. “I remember him throwing very well,” says Lisa. “They were so good that year.”

His first winning start: Twins vs. Royals in Kansas City, where Brian got to play against his good friend and former teammate Alex Gordon. “Whole family was there,” says Brian. “We had the entire third base left field side bleachers because back then, Kansas City sucked. Got my first win, went 5 1/3 innings. And it just kind of kept going.”

Two months later, just three months after being recalled from Triple-A, the Twins called upon Brian to start Game 1 of the 2009 ALDS against CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium.

Source:Bruce Kluckhohn/Minnesota Twins/MLB via Getty Images

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” — Philippians 4:8

Brian was officially named part of Minnesota’s starting rotation in 2010, the same season he threw his first of TWO complete game shut outs, agains the Oakland Athletics in August. He did it again versus the Tampa Bay Rays in July 2011.

https://youtu.be/0-CUFSicWNc

The first person to congratulate Brian after his final out… his catcher and friend, Joe Mauer. THAT is what Brian and Lisa both talk about when you ask them about their favorite memories in Minnesota; yes, the baseball, but also, the people.

Those two All Stars, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, became Brian’s closest friends in Minneapolis, along with teammates like Matt Guerrier and Josh Willingham. Maddie Mauer, Ginger Willingham and others, became confidantes and constant companions for Lisa. Friendships extended to Twins staff, club employees, and Twins’ beat reporters. They raised their families together. They suffered losses and celebrated memories together. They understood each other in a way others outside the game cannot. For two Omaha ‘Nebraska Nice’ natives like Brian and Lisa, Minnesota was an extension of Midwest hospitality and family connectivity.

“I am ridiculously proud of his accomplishments on the field, but when I think of Minnesota my first hundred memories would be with people or things off the field,” says Lisa. “That’s the thing about baseball people miss is you do life with those people. You spend more time with them than you do anyone else in your entire life. Even your best friend, you don’t talk to that person for four hours straight every, single day for eight months like you do the girls with the team. Some days, I would come to the game and not even go to the field. I would just sit and talk to the security guard. Or the same person who had our tickets every game; for years and years. When I found out I was pregnant, our chaplain went with me to my ultrasound because Brian was on the road. I had two miscarriages there. You do life with those people, and when you leave, you are leaving so much more than the game.”

For Brian and Lisa.. that day came in February 2016. Brian, who had spent his entire career with the Minnesota Twins organization, seven of those years in Minneapolis, became a free agent and signed with the Kansas City Royals. The Duensings left Minnesota as a family of almost-5… no longer rookies to life in the Majors, but preparing to start all over again just as they had in 2009.

“The day we left, I was hysterically bawling,” says Lisa. “I was saying goodbye to the ticket people, the security guards, the people who ran the playroom. I always tell people it was a revolving door for so many years; someone gets traded and boom, they’re gone, within the day sometimes. Brian and I were always on one side of the door, which was a huge blessing. Not many people play that long, or play in one place. It was really hard to say goodbye to all of those people.”

“It felt very much like home,” says Brian. “We had a great group of people.”

“The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” — Numbers 6:24–26

On to Kansas City.. with a new mission and outlook looming on the horizon.

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Catch up on the first two installments of the Duensings’ story!

CLICK HERE to read Part 1: Major League

CLICK HERE to read Part 2: American League

Little Girls With Big Dreams

You can tell a lot about a person by scrolling through their Facebook feed. Mine is filled with pics of my kids, a shout out for Autism Awareness, a screen grab about baseball, and a #ThrowbackThursday pic to my bff and fellow TV-retiree John Campbell. I’m a woman who loves her babies, promoting causes close to my heart, I am obsessed with baseball and I LOVE looking back at memories that still make me laugh.

Yes, I get that social media can be dangerous and scary.. but it can also be inspiring and encouraging. Like it or not, it’s something our current generation has grown up with and the question is not whether or not they’ll use it, it’s HOW can we ensure they use to wisely and positively.

Example: a teenager in Hastings is already painting a beautiful portrait of herself through snapshots and posts. No questionable images or shake-your-head moments.. but moments showcasing her achievements, service, and friends. She is a young woman who, for years, has been looking up to Nebraska’s best and brightest, who all happened to wear crowns.

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That’s Olivia Terwey on the left. When this photo was taken, she was in the 3rd grade, and Little Sister to Miss Northwest Megan Dimmitt at the 2013 Miss Nebraska Pageant.

“[Megan] is my role model,” Olivia told me recently. “She’s such a ray of sunshine no matter how stormy the weather. She’s genuine and hard working. She’s generous and kind. She’s successful and works so hard for what she wants. I want to be just like her.”

Megan may be the Queen of Olivia’s heart, but she’s got a full court.

Olivia’s Facebook albums are filled with photos of Miss Nebraska titleholders, all of whom have inspired her in different ways over the years, as a little girl who grew up following the program.

“I attended my first pageant at 5 months old and my mom says I was so in awe of Brittany Jeffers. (Still am!)!!” said Olivia. “When I was in 3rd grade, I was Megan’s Little Sister, and she is still the best Big! The year before that, my cousin was a Little Sister. Mariah Cook was my aunt’s ‘host daughter’, and my cousin was her Little Sister and she won! Lianna Prill was also my aunt’s ‘host daughter’. I’ve just been so inspired by such phenomenal women who I’ve wanted to emulate my entire life! I used to say to my mom, ‘when I’m big enough to wear a crown and a sash, I can’t wait to wear it to Applebee’s!'”

Now, it’s Olivia’s turn.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

In February, this first year she was eligible to compete, Olivia was crowned Miss Sandhills Outstanding Teen. (“I’m the baby of MNOT this year!”) No word if there was a trip to Applebee’s after, but there has been plenty of excitement – and service, just like the role models who came before her.

“Service is definitely the most important to me!” said Olivia. “It’s about giving. My mom always shares the quote, ‘for it is in giving we receive,’ and I believe that is so true. Be the change you wish to see in the world. I get so much more out of giving than the ones I’m helping. Serving others puts life in perspective, it keeps you thankful!”

 

 

“[My platform is] Get Up and Dance, providing free dance classes to under-privileged youth,” said Olivia. “My mom teaches at a school that’s 93% poverty. It made me so sad to know some of her kids could barely afford shoes, let alone extras like dance. Dance is my passion! It helps me not only stay in shape, but it’s my outlet. I doesn’t matter what I feel, I can dance it out and leave it all on the floor. I want all kids to have the opportunities I have been so fortunate enough to experience. Whether it’s teaching a class every Friday afternoon at Lincoln Elementary, library, or visiting a preschool, I love watching their faces light up when they begin to dance and the excitement we all feel as they improve. It’s incredible.”

dance

Olivia hopes to someday have a career in dance, and notes the poise, confidence, and public speaking skills she’s already improving by being a Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen titleholder. She’ll compete for the state title in just two weeks, representing Hastings Middle School in Omaha. She’ll be partnered with a Princess, just like the Little Sister program she was once a part of.

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“The best part is seeing a little girl’s face light up when she sees you,” said Olivia. “I had a little cutie pie at an event hug me goodbye and say ‘have fun in your castle!’ It was so precious.”

Regardless of the outcome, Olivia’s goals are clear… she wants to have the same impact that all of her heroes had on her, creating a new generation of little girls who feel special and empowered to take on the world.

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“I want to be the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen that left a legacy of being warm and friendly,” said Olivia. “I want to inspire others to get involved in community service and spread kindness! These are women who are strong and successful, all working toward the greater good of our state and country.”

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To follow Miss Sandhills’ Outstanding Teen Olivia Terwey on Facebook, click here.

For more information about the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook, or CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Twitter. You can also contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at KaliNicoleTV@gmail.com.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Competition takes place April 28 in North Omaha, Nebraska.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Twin Rivers’ Outstanding Teen Rachel Young

NEXT.. Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen Phoenix Stanford

The Perfect 10

I have this little thing I do when I got to a pageant. I keep score. It’s kinda like keeping book at a baseball game, except I keep my own numbers for each phase of competition as if I were on the judging panel myself.

Last month, for the first time I gave a contestant a perfect 10 in every, single, category.

Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Carsyn Long

Charismatic. Goosebumps. Articulate. OUTSTANDING.

Sticking with the baseball theme, I’m stepping up to the plate and calling the homerun now: Carsyn Long will be your next Miss America’s Outstanding Teen.

This girl was sensational from start to finish. Her poise and carriage on stage were what you hope to see in every young woman in America. She had the performance of her life, singing a rendition of ‘Tomorrow’ from the musical Annie. In a display of fitness, no ‘girlie’ pushups from Carsyn; she dipped all the way to the ground and back up, displaying the hard work and strength she’d built up pursuing a healthy lifestyle. And what I loved most: Graciousness. Humility. Gratitude. When it comes to pageants, so often a woman’s true character is revealed in how they are thought of by others. In Carsyn’s case, here’s a sample:

Carsyn Long congratulations on becoming Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2017. You make an excellent Queen. I remember meeting you at crowns and gowns and thinking you were such a nice and beautiful girl. You have an amazing personality so there’s no wonder the judges adored you, and they will at nationals too! I wish you all the best on your year! If you ever need “a real queen to fix your crown” or gown, just know that I’m behind you knowing you’ll have no problem being the best you can be to represent our state! – Alexandria Warneke, Miss York County’s Outstanding Teen 2017

You did it!! Congrats honey bear!! With your fun loving attitude and the love and direction God has given you, you will do great things!!! You enjoy your year babe! Make the difference I know you can make!!! If you ever need something, Hit Me Up girl!!! Wishing you also safe travels from place to place!! Love ya girl!!! – Haylee Umble, Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen 2017

To Carsyn Long, our new Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen. Congratulations — you really deserved that crown! You truly owned that stage, and I can’t wait to see you at the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen pageant. Your platform is Real Queens Fix Each Other’s Crowns, and I think we can all say that you are truly a ‘real queen.’ Warmest regards from your fellow titleholder — I know that you’re going to be an amazing representative for Nebraska. #mneoteen – Jamie Chen, Miss Metro’s Outstanding Teen 2017

TWU All girls

What an absolutely phenomenal group of young women. The Class of 2017 was truly a showcase of intelligence, talent, sisterhood and service. Following in Anchor’s Away form, here are MY 2017 MNOT awards, based on that ever important secret score sheet.

The ‘Holy Crap! How old are you?!?’ Awards

Miss Metro’s Outstanding Teen Jamie Chen was barely old enough to compete in this year’s state pageant, but her maturity and exceptional talent blew me away. Jamie was asked to perform piano years ago at the Miss Nebraska Pageant, so I knew she had a gift. I wasn’t expecting the musical masterpiece and artistry she displayed for us, especially at such a young age. Jamie was then asked on stage about her recent award working on a real-life challenge involving STEM studies, and she not only explained the project but how opportunities like it allow students to explore how subjects like math and science can be applied outside of a classroom. Jamie was simply magnificent..

TWU Jamie and dad

..and I’d argue no one was prouder than her mom and dad. I cannot wait to see more of this young lady in our programs!

As a public speaker and writer, I always look forward to the on stage questions, and usually that’s the make or break moment for me regarding a contestant. Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen Haylee Umble was tops for me after her moment on stage, fielding a question about transgender issues in public schools. Guys, these questions are HARD. The teens who competed in this year’s event were 13-17 years old, responding to issues from date rape to President Trump’s policies and more. Haylee articulately answered the question, offering both her personal views as a Christian and her feelings about what public policy should include. She accomplished the golden unicorn of controversial issues: providing her own, honest feelings and yet still offering a respectful, researched and thought out response. I challenge you to find an adult who can do that.

TWU Haylee Umble

Haylee won the People’s Choice Award and tied for Miss Congeniality, voted on by her fellow MNOT sisters.

The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Best Dressed Awards

I stress… this isn’t about who paid the most money for their gown. When I won Miss Douglas County, I wore my high school prom dress I got for $89 at the mall. Still… OH, HOW I LOVE SEEING ALL THE GOWNS! Or as my BFF Camilla would say, ‘SO MANY BOO-TIFUL DWESSES!’

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As always, I LOVED seeing such variety in color and styles at this year’s Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant.

TWU Top 5

I definitely had a gasping moment when Miss Elkhorn’s Outstanding Teen Emily Lenser walked out on stage (seen above on the far right in purple.) Her Ritzee Originals gown from the Black Swan Dress Boutique was GLORIOUS!

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I also loved Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen Makenzie Davies canary yellow gown, a Sherri Hill from the Winning Crown Dress Boutique. Yellow is a TOUGH color to pull off, but Makenzie made a perfect choice, and radiated happiness and sunshine on stage.

Sheridan Hirschfelds

Miss Old West Balloon Fest’s Outstanding Teen Sheridan Blanco wore one of the most memorable gowns of the night, a Jovani from Hirschfeld’s Prom Shoppe. It was SO DIFFERENT than what anyone else had, or what we had ever seen before, and it was a perfect fit for this wonderful young lady!

Whitney Hirschfelds

My showstopper of the night… Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Whitney Miller and her custom Rachel Allen gown from Hirschfeld’s Prom Shoppe. Hirschfeld’s owner Abbie Pack took the gown and hand-beaded the lining with a dazzling pop of pink. THIS. WAS. AMAZING.

Finally, not competing but equally as dazzling, was Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2013 Samantha Washington, the current Miss Nebraska Teen USA.

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Samantha just has that IT factor, and was a supermodel in this amazing bling-meets-pants Vienna Prom combo from Black Swan Dress Boutique. LOVE!

The Hostess with the Mostest Awards

Wow. Pretty much broke every grammar rule in the book with this one.

Nicole

Miss America’s Outstanding teen Nicole Jia was a special guest and host for this year’s state pageant, and she was a JOY. It’s easy to see why and how this young woman was named Miss America’s Outstanding Teen; she is articulate, funny, and incredibly warm and caring to everyone around her.

I was especially touched by this moment: Nicole, not only congratulating our new Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, but connecting with her in a way only a select few can, because they are the girls who’ve accomplished this incredible feat. Nicole attends school and travels to another state and crowning nearly EVERY WEEKEND, and we are so blessed and grateful she chose Nebraska!

Helping Nicole throughout the night and ensuring the production was nearly flawless was a woman very familiar to so much of our Miss Nebraska and MNOT family..

TWU Alyssa and Jessica

Miss Nebraska 2015 Alyssa Howell volunteered her time to direct the pageant from backstage. This former MNOT contestant and Top 12 semi-finalist at Miss America dedicated her whole day to rehearsals and worked in the dark behind the scenes to put the best light possible on this year’s 18 contestants. She is one of the most giving, genuine people I have ever met, qualities she continues to prove through her willingness to give back to our programs.

We use the word OUTSTANDING for a reason. These young women are everything you hope your daughters are as they grow up. They remind those of us who are older of the energy, light, and beauty we all still have inside us. They represent the very best our state has to offer now and in the future.

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Here’s proof. Miss Nebraska 2011 Kayla Jacox, who was also Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2007. Miss Nebraska 2016 Aleah Peters, a Top 5 finalist at Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen. Rachel Daly, the second Executive Director of the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Organization, who along with Peggy Fox and Kayla, formed the foundation of a new legacy and countless opportunities for future Miss Nebraska’s. And me, just a gal incredibly inspired by this year’s 18 contestants, the friends at my side, and the new Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Carsyn Long.

TWU Carsyn official

Sweet girl, we are so, so proud of you and cannot WAIT to watch you represent all of Nebraska’s teenagers on America’s stage. You are truly OUTSTANDING.

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE 2017 MISS NEBRASKA’S OUTSTANDING TEEN AWARD WINNERS!

Carsyn Long, Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen: Overall Awards for Interview, Talent and Evening Gown/On Stage Question

1st Runner Up: Jamie Chen (also Overall Scholastic Achievement Award)

2nd Runner Up: Cherokee Purviance (also Spirit Award, tie for Miss Congeniality)

3rd Runner Up: Alex Nervig

4th Runner Up: Emily Lenser

Top 8 Semi-finalists: Alexandria Warneke (also 2nd Place Community Service Award), Whitney MillerNaomi Turner

Additional honors: Brianna Little, Overall Community Service Award; Katy Greene, Non-Finalist Talent Award; Phoenix Stanford, Non-Finalist Interview Award & Non-Finalist Evening Gown/On Stage Question Award

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CLICK HERE for more details, HERE to follow on Twitter, HERE to follow on Facebook.  For more information about becoming a contestant, email Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Western Nebraska 2017 Devin Owens

NEXT.. Miss Chadron 2017 Shaniah Freeseman

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2014-2016 click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

 

Home Of The Brave

Our national anthem is arguably, one of the toughest songs for an artist to perform.  So much range, pressure to make it your own without offending traditionalists, and most of the time, acapella.  Easy to veer off the rails, tough to swerve back on.

Lately, Miss America veterans have been REPRESENTING the stars and stripes.

Both Miss Nebraska 2014 Megan Swanson and Miss South Dakota 2008 Alex Hoffman (now KETV’s morning anchor) were selected as finalists to audition to sing at the College World Series.

CLICK HERE to listen to Megan, who will perform before the 7pm game on June 15.

CLICK HERE to listen to Alex, chosen as an alternate (the same night she’ll be performing the anthem at the Miss South Dakota pageant!)

And if you’re bored (GULP!) CLICK HERE to hear MY rendition before the Nebraska & Creighton baseball game back in April… if there’s an alternate game Saturday June 20th at the CWS, I get to sing, too!

The list continues.. Miss Nebraska 2011 Kayla Batt-Jacox sang in front of thousands at Werner Park this spring before the Nebraska & UNO baseball game.  Miss Omaha 2014 Payton Merritt will sing at TD Ameritrade Park this weekend during the Big East baseball tournament.  Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev sang before the Washington Nationals & Miami Marlins game on May 7th.  We’re everywhere!

And this last weekend, a huge honor for one of this year’s Miss Nebraska contestants, chosen to sing the anthem in front of thousands at her own college graduation from Creighton University.

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MISS NEBRASKA STATE FAIR 2015 MARIE ALLISON

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“Blessed to have been fortunate enough to graduate from Creighton with degrees in Philosophy and Music, summa cum laude, and to have sung the national anthem for the graduating classes of 2015,” Marie posted on Facebook.  “It is humbling to realize the massive investment of time, the support of my wonderful family and friends, and the connections with faculty and fellow scholars that I have made throughout my Creighton experience. I may not be certain of what I desire to be in my future, but I know I am well primed to realize that truth as a process that will happen. Thank you to the people who always believe in me.”

These thoughts, showing appreciation and reflection, mirror the messages Marie sent me recently regarding the Miss America program.

“I never, EVER thought I would be a girl who competed in pageants,” Marie told me recently.  “This decision changed the trajectory of my life dramatically because I learned how pageants challenge you to grow.”

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Marie’s first pageant exposure came through her love of horses; she was a rodeo queen.  She is also a passionate equestrienne, behind the training of two national caliber show horses, and a volunteer at the Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Academy.  Those roles, however, didn’t always put Marie in the spotlight.

“As I am an introvert, appearances were very challenging to me,” said Marie.  “I was pushed outside my comfort zone to become equal to the take of being a good representative of my program.”

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Marie herself had what she calls personal stigmas about pageantry, something she confronted directly when she competed for Miss Colorado last summer.

“I became involved in the Miss America program when I realized I could be impacting real change in my community and earning scholarships to fund my education,” said Marie.  “This program has made me consider what I value deeply, and the issues I feel need to be adequately addressed by our society as a whole.  I have come to profoundly respect my fellow contestants as outstanding individuals and community servants.  They are authentic leaders with humble confidence that lights up the world around them, providing examples that empower all youth and particularly young women.”

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Marie is a true example of that.  She spends time doing crafts with patients at Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, she’s active with Omaha’s Urban Abbey Methodist Church and Coffee Shop, and she’s a volunteer with the Stephens Center for the homeless.  Marie does all of this not because she has to, but driven by her own background.

“I chose my platform (‘Communication: Proactive Prevention’) because I would not have attended college, nor would I be the person I am today if I did not have a strong social network and people believing in me,” said Marie.  “Given my personal experience with socioeconomic stress and homelessness, and how difficult these experiences were, I now that I would not have survived or thrived without the help of the communities I was involved in.  It is my goal to help build meaningful relationships and communities to help others the same way people have helped me to overcome seemingly impossible circumstances.”

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Homeless.  To college.  To singing at her own graduation from Creighton University.

The words of the Star Spangled Banner are etched into every American’s heart and soul.

What so proudly we hailed..

Through the perilous fight..

O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

Courage when things are tough.  Standing tall and persevering.  Being a beacon for those who may come after you.

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May 18, 2015, standing in front of her fellow Creighton University graduates, singing those words.  What a special moment for a young woman who has lived her own version of the Star Spangled Banner.  And the journey for Marie Allison isn’t over yet; next stop, Miss Nebraska.

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Follow Miss Nebraska State Fair Marie Allison and contact her for appearances and events on Facebook.

For information on becoming a future contestant, contact Director Chelsey Jungck at 308-382-1710 or by email at cjungck@statefair.org.

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The Miss Nebraska Pageant will take place June 3-6, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website, to visit the pageant on Facebook, to follow the pageant on Twitter, and to follow the pageant on Instagram.

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NEXT.. Miss Chadron 2015 Tosha Skinner

To read more about the Miss Nebraska Class of 2014, click on the ‘There She Is’ link at the top of the page.