Miss America first prelim

The 51 contestants of the Miss America 2018 pageant take the stage at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City for the first night of preliminary competition Wednesday night. Wednesday, September 6

The Miss America 2018 Competition began Wednesday night with strong performances from the 51 contestants. 

Seventeen of the contestants showcased their mostly musical talents, which ranged from classical to modern. Miss Florida performed an piano piece by Chopin, while Miss West Virigina did a hip-hop dance to Janet Jackson's "Burn It Up".

But it was Miss Utah JessiKate Riley's performance of a classical violin arrangement that won her the first night's talent award and a $2,000 scholarship. 

Riley said her talent was years in the making. With her 115-year-old violin, named "Sam," Riley wowed the judges with a classical showpiece she learned at the age of 12 and arranged to fit the 90-second Miss America talent requirement. 

"It's out of this world to be here," said Riley. "My goal coming into this was to portray my heart through mu music, because that's my best form of communication, and I guess it worked!"

Miss Texas Margana Wood won the first night's lifestyle and fitness award. Wood said her secret to training for the swimsuit competition was having a great motivator in the gym. Wood said the hardest part of training was giving up her beloved Diet Coke. 

"I was honestly so surprised," said Wood about winning the swimsuit competition. "I had such a fit group, but at the end of the day, it's about confidence and I'm so glad the judges saw that in me". 

With the lifestyle and fitness award, Wood also receives a $1,000 scholarship, which she hopes to put towards graduate school.

The preliminaries also included evening wear and an on-stage question, where contestants spoke about their chosen platforms.

Comedian and former Miss New Jersey Dena Blizzard returned to host the preliminaries. Blizzard helped introduce the preliminary judges panel and 13 former Miss Americas who came to watch this year's competition, including 1955 Lee Merriweather, 1984 Suzette Charles and 2015 Kira Kazantsev. 

The second night of preliminaries will start at 7 p.m. Thursday at Boardwalk Hall. 

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Staff Writer

Joined the Press in November 2016. Graduate of Quinnipiac University. Previously worked as a freelance reporter in suburban Philadelphia and news/talk radio producer.

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