A former collegiate pole-vaulter and a wilderness guide, Miss Louisiana Lacey Sanchez and Miss Wyoming Jessie Allen, are championing exercise on the road to the Miss America Competition in Atlantic City.

Likewise, Miss Connecticut Acacia Courtney, a vegetarian, and Miss Utah Karlie Major, a proponent of positive body images in the media, advocate for physical health while pursing the title.

Because Lifestyle and Fitness in Swimsuit is worth 15 percent of contestants’ preliminary scores — a percentage that helps judges determine the top 15 contestants — keeping in shape is a necessity for these contestants.

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Each Miss America contestant is a representation of her home. But being physically fit means that not every woman represents her state — statistically, that is. Many of the women vying to be Miss America 2015 acknowledge obesity might be a problem in their home states. They want to use their platforms to address this issue.

Sanchez, 23, will be promoting a platform called “Designed to Move,” which she described as “a Nike-sponsored global initiative to end physical inactivity.”

A study by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ranked Louisiana the fourth-most obese of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., for 10- to 17-year-olds and high schoolers in 2011.

Sanchez was a pole-vaulter in college. She said that while growing up, sports, not pageants, were her passion. She said she signed up for her first pageant after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, as a way to “lighten the mood as she was going through treatment.” Her sorority sisters also encouraged her.

“I think it’s a cool story to go from the athletic world to the pageant world,” Sanchez said.

In the same study, Wyoming was ranked 28th in the state’s obesity standings for high schoolers, while 10- to 17-year-olds were ranked 48th.

Miss Wyoming Jessie Allen, 24, said that generally, she thinks Wyoming residents are active. Allen’s platform, “Explore Nature’s Playground,” is designed “to get kids active and healthy in the outdoors.”

Allen grew up on her family’s guest ranch, where she spent almost half of her life without electricity. Every summer, Allen leads 10-day wilderness camps for children, where she teaches them skills such as fly-fishing, axmanship, and horseback riding.

Allen said she understands that spending time outdoors can be difficult for those who live in more urban areas. However, she aims to provide opportunities for all children to get outside.

“In preparing for Miss America, I made a pledge to myself I would be living completely true to my platform,” Allen said. “I haven’t stepped foot in the gym while preparing. I’m packing horses, lifting hay bales and hiking a lot. I’m feeling really physically fit; it’s my lifestyle in the mountains.”

Although her state ranks in the heavier half of the study, at 18th for high-schoolers and 23rd for 10- to 17-year-olds, Miss Connecticut Acacia Courtney is also promoting a platform that is true to her own lifestyle.

Courtney’s platform is “The Monday Campaigns: A Guide to a Healthier World,” in which she promotes “meatless Monday” and “move-it Monday.”

“Personally, I’m a vegetarian,” Courtney said. “The Monday Campaigns are about, one day a week, taking a pledge to exercise more, be healthy, think about your body and bettering the world around you.”

As a dancer — Courtney’s talent is ballet — the 21-year-old said she has felt the pressure to be thin “growing up in that world.” But she said she’s a big proponent of self love “and supports “embracing physical health instead of being skinny or looking a certain way.”

“Miss America helped me understand the importance of taking care of yourself rather than promoting a certain image,” Courtney said. “When I would watch on TV, Miss America was always on a pedestal to me, but a pedestal of steps. It should be attainable.”

Miss Utah Karlie Major agrees. Her platform is “Embracing a Positive Image through Media Smarts.” The platform aims to educate young people about “media literacy” and the damaging effects that Photoshop and manipulating images online can have on what society “thinks we should look like.”

Utah was ranked 41st and 43rd for high-schoolers and 10- to 17-year-olds, respectively.

Major said she doesn’t go on drastic diets or spend an overwhelming amount of time at the gym. In fact, the 20-year-old currently has a herniated disk, so she can’t.

“Living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t come in a physical size or number,” Major said. “People are finally realizing how much an impact media has.”

Contact Devin Loring:

609-272-7022

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