June 13, 2003

Previewing Miss New Jersey 2003

Staff Writer

If it seems like there are more attractive, versatile young women in Ocean City this week that usual, your observations are correct. There are, in fact, 25 young women here to determine which of them will represent the Garden State in September's Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City.

The Miss New Jersey Pageant will hold its final night of preliminaries Friday at the Music Pier, where it has been held since 1996, and then offer the finals on Saturday night. Tickets are $20 for Friday and $25 for Saturday.

The festivities began on Wednesday with a boardwalk parade that included all of the contestants and the current Miss New Jersey, Alicia Luciano.

Luciano is featured in the pageant show, which is being hosted by former Miss New Jersey, Michele Sexton, and Disney performer Sean Garrity.

The 13 women who will compete in the talent competition Friday night are, in order of competition:
Diera Shaw, 21, Miss Garden Cities, a tap dancer who is an only child and collects Winnie the Pooh paraphernalia. Her platform is Reducing Intolerance Through Diversity.
Jane Nordell, 22, Miss Highlands, a classical vocalist who is an avid hiker and canoeist. Her platform is Diabetes Awareness and Prevention.
Allison Strauss, 18, Miss Monmouth County, a dancer who is one of six children and was president of her class for three years. Her platform is Child Mentoring.
Shanna Morales, 21, Miss Brigantine Beach, a pianist who is the Eastern States all-around karate champion. Her platform is Promoting the Arts in Education.
Jennifer Farrell, 18, Miss Atlantic County, a ballet dancer who was featured in a film about ballet at age 10. Her platform is Adoption as an Option.
Christine Ritzius, 20, Miss Laurel Valley, a singer who volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. Her platform is The Importance of Foster Care.
Syma Chowdhry, 22, Miss Central Coast, a belly dancer who is an intern for Philadelphia's WB-17. Her platform is S.T.A.T.E. (Social Tolerance and Acceptance Through Education).
Jennifer Panara, 19, Miss Shore Resort, a classical vocalist who is a two-time gold medalist in the National Latin Exam. Her platform is Building Self-Esteem in Our Youth.
Alyssa Buttiglieri, 21, Miss Middlesex County, a ballet dancer who hopes to become a TV news anchor. Her platform is March of Dimes.
Suzanne Buksar, 20, Miss Camden County, a singer who has sung the National Anthem for the Camden Riversharks. Her platform is Keeping the Performing Arts Alive.
Graziella Baratta, 24, Miss Bergen County, a ballet dancer who finished 3rd in the ESPN Universal Dance Association National Championship. Her platform is America the Beautiful Through the Arts.
Georgine DiMaria, 19, Miss Gateway, a singer-violinist who hopes to join her father, brother and sister in the practice of law. Her platform is Living With Asthma.
Vanessa Vander, 24, Miss Vineland, a dancer who was Cumberland County's Junior Miss in 1997. Her platform is Head Start to a Healthy Heart.

The other 12 performed their talents Thursday night and will be judged Friday night in both evening wear and swim suit. They are:
Shannon Gallina, 20, Miss Cumberland County, a singer who competed in the high jump and javelin throw in high school track. Her platform is Prevention of Child Abuse.
Kasi Lynch, 19, Miss Tri-County, a dancer who was an all star cheerleader two years in high school. Her platform is Domestic Violence.
Jennifer Fox, 20, Miss Mays Landing, a singer who volunteers for her local rescue squad. Her platform is Volunteerism.
Jamie Ginn, 21, Miss Smithville, a dancer who was awarded first place for her Idling Emissions Study at the Chemical Engineers National Conference. Her platform is CPR Saves Lives.
Libby Montiel, 23, Miss Ramapo Valley, a classical pianist who has had 15 years of piano training, eight years of voice and five years of violin. Her platform is Effective Music Education in the Public Schools.
Brenda Barreto, 23, Miss Stars & Stripes, a singer who won the Leonard Horn Scholarship for Legal Studies from Miss America in 2001. Her platform is Organ and Tissue Donation.
Katherine Estep, 21, Miss Gloucester County, a singer who is an only child and hopes to teach third grade. Her platform is Literary Advocacy.
Lacey Johnson, 19, Miss Cape May County, a singer who has a twin sister and four other siblings. Her platform is Physical Fitness Among Youth.
Julie Robenhymer, 22, Miss Burlington County, a dancer who portrays team mascot "Boomer" at Trenton Thunder games. Her platform is Power of Positive Thinking.
Christine Brown, 23, Miss Union County, a baton twirler who is a five-time World Baton Twirling Champion. Her platform is C.A.R.E. (Continuing America's Recreational Experience).
Kristi Pawlus, 18, Miss Mainland, a singer who had the lead in two high school musicals. Her platform is G.E.H.M. (Giving Elderly Help Through Music).
Julia Ricketts, 20, Miss Southern Shore, a ballet dancer who wants to become a TV news anchor. Her platform is Buckle Up America.

On Saturday night, the 10 contestants who scored the most preliminary points in the four combined categories (interview, evening wear, swim suit and talent) will compete again in those categories for the title.

Eight of the 25 young women were contestants in last year's pageant - Chowdhry was third runner-up and Shaw was fourth runner-up - and 15 are competing in a state pageant for the first time.

There are some local favorites.

Ginn, Miss Smithville, who competed in the pageant three years ago, is an Ocean City High School graduate and former Miss Ocean City.

Johnson, Miss Cape May County, and Farrell, Miss Atlantic County, both are Holy Spirit High School graduates. And Pawlus, Miss Mainland, just graduated from Wildwood Catholic. All three are competing at the state level for the first time.

These 25 young women will be reduced to just one by the end of Saturday evening. That one will then prepare for her next stop - the Miss America Pageant.

2002...*ALICIA LUCIANO, Stanhope
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

(*won at Music Pier)