June 12, 2002
Previewing Miss New Jersey 2002

Staff Writer

Four young women who attended high school in Cape May County, including two Ocean City High School graduates, will be among the 26 young women competing for the title of Miss New Jersey next weekend (June 13-15) on the Music Pier.

The state competition, which selects New Jersey's representative to September's Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, has been in Ocean City since 1996 when it moved here from Wildwood.

The festivities will actually begin on Wednesday with a boardwalk parade that will include all of the contestants and the current Miss New Jersey, Julie Barber, a graduate of Vineland High School.

Barber, a ballet dancer, will be featured in the shows during the three nights of competition along with two former Miss New Jerseys - Stephanie Ferrari and Victoria Paige. Three other women who competed in the state pageant will also have roles in the production. Robin DeLauri and Kameelah Majied will sing and Carol Maccri will choreograph the show.

Ocean City's Tricia Bowman-Branch, Miss New Jersey 1988, will host the shows along with Stuart May, a singer-dancer from Las Vegas.

The preliminary competition begins on Thursday night and will conclude with Friday night's show, starting at 8:00. The 10 contestants who score the most preliminary points in the four combined categories (interview, evening wear, swim suit and talent) will then compete again on Saturday night for the title.

The judging will be handled by Capt. Joseph Duff (USN-Ret), Bank of New York vice-president Michael Catanzara, consulting firm partner Virginia Newman Littell, novelist E. Lynn Harris, Broadway performer Mary D'Arcy-Jurman (also Miss New Jersey 1977), award-winning journalist Leon Zimmerman and Miss America 1998 Kate Shindle.

Both of the OCHS graduates will be competing in the state pageant for the first time.

Patricia DeLong, 21, is from the Class of 1998 and is Miss Smithville. She just graduated from The College of New Jersey with a Sociology degree. She hopes to become a high school guidance counselor. DeLong was a Dean's List student at TCNJ and studied in Nice, France last year. She will sing "Ring Them Bells". Her platform is the HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers.

The other Ocean City graduate is 21-year-old Megan Hope, Miss Mays Landing, who attends Atlantic Cape Community College. She plans to get her Master's Degree in Special Education. Hope was a runner-up to Miss Ocean City in both 1999 and 2000 and was 2nd runner-up to Miss Cape May County in 2001. She will sing "When I Look at You'. Her platform is Including Those with Special Needs.

The other two Cape May County graduates are 21-year old Marta Angelastro, Miss Cape May County, and 21-year old Patience Krown, Miss Brigantine Resort.

Angelastro is a 1999 graduate of Wildwood Catholic who just completed her junior year at Richard Stockton College. She hopes to own and operate a studio teaching self defense, yoga and dance. Angelastro will dance to "Hit Me With a Hot Note". Her platform is Women's Self Defense Education and Awareness.

Krown, 21, is a 1999 graduate of Middle Township who attends the Fashion Institute of Technology. She has traveled to 48 states and seven countries. Krown will sing "Can't Help Lovin' That Man of Mine". Her platform is Organ and Tissue Donation.

Two other contestants are from the area, both having graduated from Holy Spirit. Karissa Hitchner, Class of 1997, is Miss Camden County. She attends the New England Conservatory of Music and performed in Central Park for two weeks after the World Trade Center disaster. Hitchner, 23, will sing Puccini's "Chi I'l Bel Sogno". Her platform is Promoting the Benefits of Music Therapy.

Meghan Hardiman, 18, just graduated from Holy Spirit last month. She will attend LaSalle University. She has performed at Carnegie Hall and Walt Disney World. Hardiman will dance to "Uninvited" by Alanis Morissette. Her platform is Y.E.S. (Youth Engaged in Service).

Krown returns to the state pageant after finishing as first runner-up in 2000. Hitchner competed last year. Angelastro and Hardiman are each in their first state pageant.

Based on prior success, Krown would be one of the five leading challengers to win it all. Others would include 23-year old Kelley Faulkner, Miss Central Coast; 24-year old Arielle Riposta, Miss Laurel Valley; 20-year old Diera Shaw, Miss Shore Resort; and 22-year old Robyn Kreiser, Miss Monmouth County.

Faulkner was 3rd runner-up last year and 2nd runner-up in 1996. She has been a featured vocalist at Disney parks who will sing "The World Goes 'Round". Her platform is The Importance of Youth Volunteerism.

Riposta, a Top 10 choice last year and 4th runner-up in 2000, has performed on stage with the Beach Boys. She will dance to "Bye Bye Blackbird". Her platform is Exposing America's Hidden Epidemic: Lyme Disease.

Shaw, 4th runner-up last year, will enter her senior year at Seton Hall and plans to attend NYU Law School. She will tap dance to "Sing, Sing, Sing". Her platform is Scholar Buddies.

Krieiser, a Top 10 choice last year, lobbied Congress earlier this year about eating disorders. She will sing "Meantime". Her platform is Eating Disorder Education.

Five other women are returning to the state pageant:

Vanessa Baker, 22, is Miss Stars and Stripes. She has interned at KYW-TV in Philadelphia. She will dance to "Somewhere". Her platform is Blood Donation.

Nicole Lagado, 24, is Miss Southern Shore. She attended classes in London. She will sing "Mira". Her platform is Active Children Equal Active Dreams.

Graziella Baratta, 23, is Miss Middlesex County. She studied abroad in Italy. She will dance to "Big Spender". Her platform is Creative Routes.

Stefany Briante, 24, is Miss Mainland. She was a cheerleader at the University of Delaware and competed with the team on ESPN. She will tap dance to "Diamonds Forever". Her platform is Helping the Hungry.

Brenda Barreto, 22, is Miss Cumberland County. She is hoping for an early birthday present, since she will turn 23 just three days after the pageant. She will sing "At Last". Her platform is Organ and Tissue Donation.

The remaining 11 young women are first-time state contestants. They should be encouraged, however, by the fact that Miss New Jersey has selected a number of "rookies" as winners. They are:

Abigail Stotler, 22, Miss Woodlake Country Club, who wants to own a public relations firm with her sister. She will dance to the overture from "Crazy for You". Her platform is Culture for Kids.

Renee Marino, 19, Miss Union County, who was nominated for the Irene Ryan Award at the Paper Mill Playhouse. She will sing "In His Eyes". Her platform is The J.O.Y. Program (Joining Old and Young).

Alicia Luciano, 18, Miss Tri-County, performed with the Broadway casts of Fosse and Saturday Night Fever on television. She will dance to "The Prayer". Her platform is America for Tomorrow's Cure.

Erica Scanlon, 19, Miss Ramapo Valley, won a varsity letter in diving. She will sing "Glitter and Be Gay". Her platform is Autism Advocacy and Awareness.

Syma Chowdhry, 21, Miss Ocean County, was named class motor mouth at Toms River North High School. She will perform an Indian Folk Dance to "Spirit of Ron-Geela". Her platform is S.T.A.T.E. (Social Tolerance and Acceptance Through Education).

Julia Ricketts, 19, Miss Gloucester County, was class president at Gateway High School and ranked 3rd in her class. She will dance en Pointe to "Amazing Grace". Her platform is Child Safety Seats.

Jane Nordell, 21, Miss Gateway, has performed at Carnegie Hall. She will sing Puccini's "Quano N'en Vo". Her platform is Cultivating Minds Through Music.

Jacqueline Ward, 19, Miss Garden Cities, won an award for an anti-drug play she wrote. She will sing "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again". Her platform is Breast Cancer Awareness.

Jennifer Panara, 18, Miss Burlington County, is an award-winning pianist and vocalist. She will sing Quarantotta's "Con Te Partiro". Her platform is Eating Disorder Awareness.

Kristina Ruiz-Mesa, 19, Miss Vineland, a 2001 Sacred Heart graduate who has a black belt in karate. She will sing "This Is The Moment". Her platform is Volunteerism.

Georgine DiMaria, 18, Miss Bergen County, hopes to become the fourth attorney from her immediate family. She will sing "Adelaide's Lament". Her platform is Living With Asthma.

These 26 young women will be reduced to 10 finalists next week and to just one by the end of Saturday evening. That one will then prepare for her next stop - the Miss America Pageant.

2001...*JULIE BARBER, Vineland
2000...*JILL HORNER, Gloucester Township
1999...*VICTORIA PAIGE, Sparta
1998...*STEPHANIE FERRARI, Glen Rock
1997...*KATHY NEJAT, Voorhees
1996...*MELANIE BELL, Vernon
1995....DENA QUERUBIN, Waterford
1994....JENNIFER MAKRIS, Cherry Hill
1993....MICHELE SEXTON, Spring Lake Heights
1992....HEATHER HERTLING, Randolph
1991....AMY FISSEL, Ocean City
1990....LYNETTE FALLS, Ridgewood
1989....LAURA MURRAY, Livingston
1988....TRICIA BOWMAN, Ocean City
1987....ROBIN LANGE, Medford
1986....TONI GEORGIANA, Cherry Hill
1985....KARYN ZOSCHE, Pine Brook
1984....PATRICIA LaTERRA, West New York
1983....SUZETTE CHARLES, Mays Landing
1982....CHRISTINA SHONE, Pequannock
1981....DEBRA NALEY, Rockaway
1980....THERESE HANLEY, Jersey City
1979....MARY McGINNIS, Somers Point
1978....LAURIE BERCHTOLD, Ocean City
1977....MARY D'ARCY, Yardville
1976....LORI JOHNSON, Medford
1975....NANCY CRAIG, Trenton
1973....SUZANNE PLUMMER, Wildwood
1972....LINDA GIALANELLA, Maplewood

(*won at Music Pier)