Middletown’s Debus ‘in such disbelief’ after Miss Delaware win

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DOVER — Clasping each other’s hands Saturday night, the last two remaining competitors in the Miss Delaware Pageant at Dover Down waited for the announcement that would change one of their lives.

Miss First State Amanda Debus and Miss Wilmington Katelynn Mayers stood on stage before a large crowd full of suspense and about to erupt.

When the judges revealed Ms. Mayers was the runner-up, meaning Ms. Debus had won the title of Miss Delaware 2016, a loud wave of cheers spread throughout and Ms. Debus burst into tears of joy.

“I couldn’t even put thought into my head. I was just praying and hoping that they wouldn’t say my name but then they would say my name,” she said about an hour after her win, struggling to describe how the moment felt.

The 23-year-old Middletown resident was crowned the pageant winner Saturday in the 75th Miss Delaware competition. She will go on to compete in the Miss America Pageant in September. No Miss Delaware has ever won the national pageant.

From left, the final five contestants, Miss Dover Mikaila Ryan, Miss Wilmington Katelynn Mayers, Miss First State and eventual Miss Delaware winner Amanda Debus, Miss Diamond State Emily Beale and Miss Capital Keturah Braithwaite wait for the judges’ decision Saturday night. (Special to the Delaware State News/Doug Curran)

From left, the final five contestants, Miss Dover Mikaila Ryan, Miss Wilmington Katelynn Mayers, Miss First State and eventual Miss Delaware winner Amanda Debus, Miss Diamond State Emily Beale and Miss Capital Keturah Braithwaite wait for the judges’ decision Saturday night. (Special to the Delaware State News/Doug Curran)

The 2008 winner of Miss Delaware’s Outstanding Teen, Ms. Debus is the first to win both state titles.

“I am literally in such disbelief right now, but it feels amazing, especially being the first Outstanding Teen state titleholder to win and it’s such a big year being the 75th year, I am so overjoyed. I can’t put into words,” she said.

She beat out 14 other women to claim the crown after hours of competition Friday and Saturday at Dover Downs. Competitions featured talent, swimsuit, evening wear and interview portions.

Ms. Debus, who has been dancing since she was 2 years old, performed a contemporary ballet piece. During the question portion, she was asked by host Heather French Henry what she thought of the success of presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, “two men on the fringe of their political parties.”

“We have such an emphasis on reality and reality TV shows, and I think that’s definitely playing a part in today’s and this year’s presidential election, and I think as Americans, we are looking into types of people that embody everything at one time and we are looking for the most dramatic candidate, just because we like that type of thing on TV,” Ms. Debus said.

As Miss Delaware 2016, Ms. Debus receives more than just a trip to Atlantic City for Miss America — she was also given a $10,000 scholarship, part of at least $30,000 the Miss Delaware organization awarded Saturday.

Ms. Henry, a former Miss Kentucky who won Miss America in 2000, attested to the impact the competition has on young women and the opportunities it provided her.

“For young ladies like me, it paid for my undergraduate and my master’s (degrees),” she said.

The competition also included celebrations of the 75th, or diamond, anniversary. More than two dozen former Miss Delawares were recognized on the

The outgoing Miss Delaware Brooke Mitchell, of Selbyville, takes a final bow Saturday night.

The outgoing Miss Delaware Brooke Mitchell, of Selbyville, takes a final bow Saturday night.

stage Saturday, including 1943’s winner, Mona Crawford.

Last year’s victor, Brooke Mitchell of Selbyville, made her final appearance as the reigning Miss Delaware, performing baton twirling and taking part in dance routines with this year’s competitors. At the end of the night, she crowned Ms. Debus, who wore a look of disbelief.

Every Miss Delaware has a platform, and Ms. Debus’ is allergy awareness.

“I personally have a lot of allergies, and growing up I knew that I was different from my friends, so I’m doing it for the kids,” she said.

“There’s one in three children in America that have some form of allergies or some form of asthma, and they get talked about, they get put down just because of their differences, and I want to show them that their differences is what makes them so special and they don’t have to be scared about the differences like allergies.

She is also hoping to spread the word about the Miss Delaware Organization, but she has her eye on something else too: Miss America. In fact, she will be going shopping for a gown today.

“I’m hitting the ground running,” Ms. Debus said.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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