On the surface, it might not seem as though pageants and track meets have much in common, but junior high jumper Ali Wintle would argue otherwise.
Ali won Miss Pennsylvania Collegiate this summer and has competed in pageants since she was 13 years old. By then, she had already been a track athlete for five years.
“High jump is an event that’s more of a mind game,” Ali said. “I would say pageants are also a mind game because you encounter people who are so accomplished in so many ways. For both, you have to focus on yourself because you can’t control what anyone else does. You just have to be the best that you can be.”
The Windham, Maine, native has also won Miss Young Teen Maine, Miss Teen Maine and Miss Maine’s Outstanding Teen.
Despite the success she’s had, Ali’s parents did not like pageant competitions.
“Our initial reaction was that of skepticism,” said Kristen Wintle, Ali’s mom. “Our only exposure to the pageant world was seeing bits of the reality television shows that didn’t depict the pageant world in the best light.”
Ali had to prove to her parents that she was willing to work hard so she could compete in pageants. As she got older, the competitions required a larger commitment. Her parents told her if she had straight A’s her freshman year of high school, then they would help her with the preparation costs to enter Miss Maine’s Outstanding Teen.
Soon, they too developed an appreciation for their daughter’s passion.
“Because Ali loves pageants so much and has had so many positive experiences, we have also grown to really enjoy the pageant world as well,” Kristen said.
Kristen said they have seen benefits to her daughter participation in pageants, such as an increase in confidence, interview skills and community involvement.
Ali’s goal is to compete in the Miss America pageant, but after taking three years off, she felt out of practice.
However, her passions for pageantry and community service led her to her most recent competition, Miss Pennsylvania Collegiate. Ali is a member of Lehigh’s student-athlete community service group, C.O.A.C.H., Community Outreach for Athletes who Care about Helping. Her engagements at Lehigh made her a perfect candidate for Miss Pennsylvania Collegiate.
“(Wintle) has a very outgoing, personable personality and loves giving back through community service and volunteering,” said Amber Smith, the Pennsylvania state executive director for the Collegiate America Pageant.
Smith said Miss Pennsylvania Collegiate’s role includes traveling around the state to volunteer and make appearances. The winner also promotes the anti-bullying campaign of the American Collegiate Organization B.R.A.V.E., Building Respect and Values for Everyone.
Ali took home the interview portion, scholastic achievement, photogenic and the overall title. This means that for the next year, she will make appearances and give back to her communities, both at Lehigh and at home in Maine.
She’ll visit schools to talk about B.R.A.V.E. Next month, she’ll be reading a book to children at a public library and visiting a second-grade classroom to speak about the dangers of bullying.
For now, balancing her appearances and track schedule isn’t a problem. As track season and competitions begin, she’ll have to adjust where she makes her appearances to work around her track schedule, as a lot of events both happen on Saturdays.
“But track comes first in that sense,” Ali said. “I made a commitment to that before I decided to do this pageant, so I just have to find events that don’t meet on Saturdays.”
Overall, whether it be on stage or on the track, Wintle’s parents continue to be her biggest fans.
“When it comes to competition, both track and pageants bring us to the edge of seats,” Kristen said. “We are excited and nervous for her. We are certainly proud of the way she has set personal goals, worked hard, prepared and handled herself in both arenas, and we are happy for the success she has seen.”