MANSFIELD - An area native was crowned Miss Ohio at the finale of the statewide pageant Saturday night - a far cry from her first title as Tiny Miss Canfield Fair as a 3-year-old.
Heather Wells, 23, a graduate of Howland High School, made six attempts at the title, starting competition as a high school senior. This year, her dream came to a peak as she progressed from Miss Montgomery County to Miss Ohio and will compete in the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City on Sept 15.
"It really hasn't sunk in. I feel very calm, cool and collected about the whole thing ,which is why I know it hasn't sunk in," Wells said.
Miss Ohio 2012 Elissa McCracken crowns Heather Wells of Howland Miss Ohio 2013 at the Miss Ohio Scholarship Program on Saturday at the Renaissance Theatre in Mansfield.
She made it into the top 11 contestant bracket after two nights of preliminary competitions that included interview, talent, swimsuit and evening wear categories. At this year's competition, Wells won two preliminary awards for the swimsuit competition and the talent competition. She performed a lyrical dance to Cece Winans' "Alabaster Box."
Wells said she began competing in fair pageants for the opportunity to show off her dance routines. Her grandmother, Doris Watkins, 70, of Warren, said she remembered watching Wells win at local competitions at the Eastwood Mall or local fairs. Wells and her mother moved in with Watkins after her parents divorced when she was about 3 years old, something that played into her current platform: "Divorce Recovery for Youth."
"I just thank the Lord I had the opportunity to watch her grow up," Watkins said.
It wasn't until her senior year in high school, when she met age requirements at 17-years old, that she began competing for the Miss Ohio title. Even then, she said it was mostly for the opportunity to dance.
"I want to dance and if I won scholarship money it was a bonus," Wells said.
Her first three times in the Miss Ohio competition she said were mostly for fun, and being a younger contestant, she figured the chances of actually winning were slim. However, in her fourth time around she said things changed.
"At 21, I got a lot more serious about it. I realized the job of Miss Ohio was something I really wanted to do," she said.
She said she began working on her interview- something she said she believes the judges use to separate the contestants that will and will not make good Miss Ohios. She also began putting more thought into her platform and style of dance.
"This year she swept it," Watkins said, "What a thrill. She pointed to the sky and gave thanks to the Lord."
Wells said she will be preparing for Miss America by focusing on being herself. Right now, she is working on getting her social media switched over and filling out the necessary paperwork for the Miss America competition.
"I'll be preparing the same way I did for Miss Ohio, by focusing on being myself. When I get anxious I talk a little fast and I think it is hard for the judges to understand me. I'll focus on being relaxed and confident in who I am," she said.
Wells holds a bachelors degree in broadcast journalism and is pursuing a master's degree in nutrition from Kent State University. She plans to become a registered nutritionist and hopes to work as a health correspondent for a news network.
Along with the Miss Ohio title, Wells received a $10,000 scholarship from Newman Technology and a vehicle for her year of service from Graham Automall. Runner up was Miss Capital City Cecili Weber of Ironton and second runner up was Miss Mansfield Alissa Brumbaugh of Louisville.
Wells is the second Miss Ohio to come from Warren. Amanda Beagle - also a Howland graduate - was crowned in 2004.