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‘It’s just a little different from all the sports games and the races:’ Bound for Southern Indiana, Smith wins Miss Pulaski County


Sports Editor, RTC

Miss Pulaski County Maggie Smith

WINAMAC — Maggie Smith has competed in dozens of cross-country races, track races, golf tournaments, basketball games and softball games, but nothing quite compared to competing for Pulaski County 4-H Queen.

But like those sports, she found a way to excel, winning Miss Pulaski County in her first ever pageant.

“It was very nerve-wracking,” Smith said. “I was more nervous for the pageant than I’ve ever been for any other of my sports or anything.”

The pageant was Friday. Smith said she began her preparations weeks in advance. She thanked pageant directors Cortney Brandt, Ashley Bentlage and Katie Kybers and previous fair queens like Kingley Kroft and Alexia Intravaia for their help.

“So much preparation,” Smith said. “I can’t remember when we started, but I think it was like three or four weeks when we really started preparing and practicing for the big pageant day.”

Smith was asked what was involved in the preparation.

“It’s basically everything,” Smith said. “We get together once a week with all the contestants and the pageant directors, and the first practice, we would practice pageant makeup and how to walk on stage. And then the next day, we would make sure we have all our outfits together. And we would have mock interviews, so we would practice our interview skills and get our speeches ready. And then we would do that again the next week, so that everything’s perfect for pageant day.”

Smith, a 2024 Winamac grad, had a ceaseless athletic career, competing in five sports and winning an incomprehensible 16 letters. She played golf and ran cross-country in the fall, basketball in the winter and softball and track in the spring.

She was first-team all-Hoosier North in golf on a conference championship team. She was first-team all-conference in softball and honorable mention all-Hoosier North in basketball. She was the Hoosier North champion in 400 meters in track and a regional qualifier in the 800 meters. 

And then there is cross-country, where she was a state qualifier. She is headed to the University of Southern Indiana to run.

But that does not mean that the pageant was easy.

“I wasn’t expecting it, but the feeling of nerves for this pageant was like nothing I’ve ever experienced,” Smith said. “The whole week leading up to the big day, I could barely eat. I was so nauseous. I just think being in front of a crowd and all their eyes on me, it was definitely very nerve-wracking. Not really something I’m used to. It’s just a little different from all the sports games and the races.”

Smith said she did it because her mom Stephanie said she did it when she was in high school. She told Maggie that she had a great experience and that it taught her a lot and gave her a lot of confidence.

She said she did a lot of practice interviews with her mom and past fair queens to help prepare.

She was asked if there was a question that stumped her.

“There was one question,” Smith said. “She asked me, ‘If money wasn’t a problem, who would you get a gift for? Why would you give that gift? And explain what it would be.’

“I wish I just had more time to think about it, so it kind of stumped me, and I said what was most meaningful to me was my mom, and I would give her a necklace that meant a lot to the both of us.”

Smith said she has never been in 4-H.

“It’s really exciting this year to be around all the 4-Hers and see what goes on behind the scenes of the fair,” Smith said. “I never really realized how much work goes into this, and it’s really cool to be a part of it now.” 

Smith ran a 19:56 and finished 159th out of 249 runners at the state cross-country meet at Terre Haute last fall. That was after she finished third in 20:32 at last year’s Rensselaer sectional and after she ran a 19:58 in a downpour at the New Prairie regional to make state.

That got Southern Indiana, an NCAA Division I program located in Evansville, to notice after Winamac coach Mike Haschel contacted the school and told them about Smith..

She said the recruiting process picked up after cross-country season ended. A week after running at the state finals in Terre Haute, she made a recruiting trip to Southern Indiana.

“I picked Southern Indiana because my cross-country coach Mikey Haschel, ran for them post-graduate, and he had a great experience,” Smith said. “And he said the coaches really made him better, and that’s what I was looking for – coaches that were going to push me and make me a better runner in the end.

“And the campus was beautiful, and the team, they were great.”

Smith said she will receive both academic and athletic scholarships at Southern Indiana. 

“I’m kind of undecided right now but going on the dentistry path,” Smith said when asked what subject she would like to major. “So I’m hoping to maybe become a dentist, like the actual top dentist, and hopefully bring it back to Winamac and start my own practice.”

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