OCEAN CITY - Miss New Jersey Katharyn Nicolle took a dip in the Atlantic Ocean Sunday afternoon, a tradition for winners of the annual competition.

Nicolle is a 20-year-old ballet dancer from Gloucester County who considers a whale part of her family.

A student at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., Nicolle will promote a service platform called "Reading for the Right Reason."

She is an environmental enthusiast who spent much of her pageant interview talking about a whale she has "adopted" for many years, to support a marine-mammal conservation project. She performed a ballet routine in the talent competition before she was crowned Miss New Jersey 2011 at the Ocean City Music Pier.

The winner earns a $10,000 scholarship and a trip to the Miss America pageant in Las Vegas in January.

The first runner-up was Miss Camden County Roopali Pendse, 23, of Morris Plains, Morris County.

Miss Central Coast Katie Berry, 22, a part-time Ocean City resident, was second runner-up. Her main home is in Mount Laurel, Burlington County, and she is a student at Fordham University in New York.

The third runner-up spot went to Miss Gateway Venessa Baez, 21, of Bloomfield, Essex County.

Miss Cape May County Anna Negron, 19, a Seton Hall University student from Vineland, was fourth runner-up.

Twenty-three women from across the state competed in the annual pageant - or "23 spectacular Jersey girls," as the announcer introduced them.

Four women with local connections made it to the 11 finalists - there was a tie in the judging for the top 10, in a pageant that had several ties in preliminary competitions.

The local finalists included Berry, Negron, Miss Cape May Shores Kaitlin Davis, 23, of Millville, and Miss Cumberland County Angelica Nardi, 21, of Millville.

The pageant was hosted by Miss New Jersey 1995 Dena Blizzard, who works as a standup comedian, including in Atlantic City comedy clubs. Blizzard has hosted the state pageant for several years.

Ciera Kaler-Jones, 17, of Galloway Township, who graduated from Absegami High School this week, was awarded the pageant's "Miss Photogenic" prize.

Contact Martin DeAngelis:

609-272-7237

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