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Miss Maryland opens

June 23, 2005

Miss Patuxent Elizabeth Borowsky wowed the audience - and judges - Wednesday night at The Maryland Theatre with an original piano composition, "Northern Lights," to win the talent portion on the first night of preliminary competitions in the Miss Maryland Scholarship Pageant.

Borowsky earned a $250 scholarship for the piece she composed after drawing inspiration from a trip to Norway.

Miss Greater Baltimore Courtney Gebhard and Miss Tidewater Jennifer Witowski tied for first place in the swimsuit competition. Each woman earned a $100 scholarship for exhibiting excellent physical fitness.

Miss Allegany County Autumn Smith won the Newcomer Talent Award for her vocal performance of "One Day in Your Life," a belty ballad that drew huge cheers from the audience.

Smith earned a $100 scholarship, given each year to a first-time, state-level contestant with the highest score in the talent competition.

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The pageant continues with preliminary competitions tonight at 8. Miss Maryland 2005 will be crowned Saturday night.

A high score in the talent competition is particularly valuable this year since a change in scoring makes the talent portion the largest percentage of a contestant's overall score.

Talent is now worth 35 percent of a contestant's score; last year, it was worth 30 percent.

"This way, a bigger percentage of the contestant's score is before the audience," said Bev Bonarigo, the Miss Maryland show producer.

Wednesday's preliminary winners competed among 22 contestants in talent, casual wear, swimsuit, evening wear and on-stage interview.

This year is the first that contestants are judged in a casual wear category. Contestants select an outfit that shows their personality, explained Courtney Thomas, business manager for the Miss Maryland scholarship organization.

"It's to show the audience another side of the contestant," she said. "It's a fun phase of competition where the girls get to express themselves."

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