The winner of this year's Miss Utah Scholarship Pageant - Sophia Christine Symko, Miss University of Utah - is truly a scholar.
The Skyline High School graduate earned her bachelor's degree in physics 16 days ago, graduating from the U. with honors, and will, she hopes, eventually earn a master's degree in instrumentation physics. She plans a career in medicine."I hope to decrease some of the suffering in the world and bring more strength and joy," she said.
Her Miss Utah win will give her $3,000 for tuition, and she should earn between $15,000 and $25,000 for personal appearances over the next year. And, with her $3,500 wardrobe prize, she may be the best-dressed coed on campus.
Symko has had 16 years of piano training, eight years of ballet and three years of jazz dance instruction. She played "Spanish Rhapsody," by Franz Liszt, for her talent competition.
All of the runnersup are Brigham Young University students. The first runnerup is Shana Marie Houston, Miss Utah Valley, a student majoring in educational psychology and sociology. Second runnerup is Sherie North, Miss Wasatch County. North studies biology, education and coaching.
Third runnerup is Dawn Michelle Dorr, Miss Orem, studying vocal pedagogy. Fourth runnerup is Charisse Christiansen, Miss Salt Lake Valley, a senior studying elementary education.
The program was hosted by Kent Norton, local television personality, and Marianne Bales, Miss Utah 1987. Bales presented the honors, but only after receiving a special presentation of her own - red roses and an engagement ring from her boyfriend, Joey Thompson, a professional dancer. The couple plan to marry in two weeks, then try their singing and dancing skills in Hollywood.
Symko will represent Utah in the next Miss America Pageant. Utah has had two winners over the years - first Colleen Hutchins in 1952, and more recently Sharlene Wells in 1985.
Symko was one of 60 contestants vying for the crown. The women range in age from 17 to 23, with the average age of 19. Nine of this year's contestants have attended Brigham Young University, seven each are from the University of Utah and Weber State College, six each are from Snow College and Utah Valley Community College and 25 attend other area schools.
Talent competitions accounted for 50 percent of points awarded. The remainder were awarded for interview, evening gown and bathing suit competitions.