Krystian Leonard, who entered the pageant as Miss Monongalia County, is overcome with emotion shortly after being crowned Miss West Virginia USA 2022 Sunday at West Virginia Wesleyan College's Virginia Thomas Law Center for the Performing Arts. / All photos by Katie Kuba

‘Know that you are worthy of it’: 2022 Miss WV USA encourages young women to pursue their dreams, goals with grit

BUCKHANNON – Of the 32 ambitious young women who took the stage at this weekend’s Miss West Virginia USA and Miss West Virginia Teen USA pageants, some were brand new, and others were back again for another shot at advancing to the national finals.

2022 Miss West Virginia USA Krystian Leonard of Morgantown was one of the latter. She had competed in the Miss West Virginia USA pageant in 2021 – the first year it was held in Buckhannon – and finished first runner-up to 2021 titleholder Alexis Bland.

So, in 2022, she returned to compete for the coveted crown. But this year, above all else, she was bound and determined to serve as an example for girls, teens and young women like herself, and when state pageant director Randy Sanders announced she had won and the crown was hers, she didn’t mince words.

“How does it feel?” Sanders asked as the second day of competition concluded at West Virginia Wesleyan College’s Virginia Thomas Law Center for the Performing Arts.

“It feels amazing,” said Leonard, who entered the pageant as Miss Monongalia County USA. “I’ve been dreaming of this since I was 10 … I’ve been on this journey for almost 12 years now. I competed in my first pageant when I was 14, and each day I wake up and get to compete in these pageants, and I want to let every single young woman in this audience know and everyone who’s watching on the live stream, if you have a dream and you have a goal, don’t let anybody try to steer you away from it. You have to know that you are worthy of it because I believe in you, you should believe in yourself … your family believes in you. Your dream can come true – just don’t give up.”

In the Miss Teen USA pageant, Emma Kitchen of Williamstown won the 2022 title.

Pageant Associates hosted this weekend’s event, and the contest serves as the official preliminaries to the national Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants, the date and location of which haven’t yet been announced.

Over the course of two days, 15 Miss USA contestants and 17 Miss Teen USA contestants vied for the title in three categories of equal value: personal interview; swimsuit for Miss and activewear for Miss Teen; and evening gown. The final show got underway at 3 p.m. Sunday, with Sanders and Andrea Mucino, social media director and emcee, at the helm.

In the Miss USA division, the five finalists included Leonard, first runner-up Tamia Hardy (Miss Berkeley County USA), second runner-up Cassidy Myers (Miss Three Rivers Festival USA), third runner-up Marleigh Ross (Miss Huntington USA) and fourth runner-up Caylie Simmons (Miss Cheat Lake USA). The top five in the Miss Teen USA division were Kitchen (Miss Williamstown Teen USA), first runner-up Olivia Edinger (Miss Three Rivers Festival Teen USA), second runner-up Sarah Lojewski (Miss Morgantown Teen USA), third runner-up Taylor Miller (Miss Putnam County Teen USA) and fourth runner-up Lakyn Campbell (Miss Parkersburg USA).

Special award winners in both the Teen and Queen/Miss division were as follows: People’s Choice Award – Cheyenne Hinkle (Teen) and Emily Prichard (Miss); Miss Photogenic Award – Lakyn Campbell (Teen) and second runner-up Cassidy Myers (Miss); and Miss Congeniality – Cadence Ringer (Teen) and Jade Thompson (Miss).

Sanders said Monday the show was nearly sold out, with the livestream edition garnering an additional 150 viewers online. He thanked the professionals and volunteers who assisted in making the show a success, including West Virginia Wesleyan College staff and president Dr. James Moore, who was in attendance.

“West Virginia Wesleyan College really made us feel wonderful and very welcome there,” Sanders said.

He was equally impressed with this year’s roster of contestants.

“The response and interest shown by not only the returning ladies but the new group of ladies this year was phenomenal,” he said. “They were one of the most organized, punctual and efficient group of women I’ve worked with. They were great – just a cooperative and enthusiastic group of women; they picked up on the show very well and helped each other.”

For more information about the state competition or national finals, visit the Miss West Virginia USA website.

Miss West Virginia Teen USA 2021 Brylee Knotts crowns her successor, 2022 Miss West Virginia Teen USA Emma Kitchen of Williamstown.
State pageant director Randy Sanders asks Brylee Knotts about her time as Miss West Virginia Teen USA.
2021 Miss West Virginia USA Alexis Bland presents the Miss Congeniality award in the Miss (queen) division to Jade Thompson of Morgantown.
Miss West Virginia USA 2021 Alexis Bland takes one final walk as the reigning royalty.
Emma Kitchen, at left, and first runner-up Olivia Edinger hold hands as they wait for the winner of the Teen division to be announced.
2021 Miss West Virginia USA Alexis Bland crowns 2022 Miss West Virginia USA Krystian Leonard.
From left, pageant judges John Simmons, Charisse Porter, Effie LaQuatra, Beth Ann Bearup and Travis Blosser pose for a photo with 2022 Miss West Virginia USA Krystian Leonard.
From left are the three finalists in the Miss division, including first runner-up Tamia Hardy of Martinsburg, Miss W.Va. USA 2022 Krystian Leonard and second runner-up Cassidy Myers of Camden on Gauley.
The three finalists in the Miss W.Va. Teen USA, including first runner-up Olivia Edinger of Parkersburg, Miss W.Va. Teen USA 2022 Emma Kitchen and second runner-up Sarah Lojewski of Morgantown.
Krystian Leonard and Tamia Hardy smile nervously as they wait to find out who will be crowned Miss West Virginia USA.
2022 titleholders Miss W.Va. Teen USA Emma Kitchen and Miss W.Va. USA Krystian Leonard chat shortly after being crowned.
Miss Congeniality winners Cadence Ringer of French Creek (Teen division) and Jade Thompson (Miss division) smile for a photo.
Nashville-based singer-songwriter Laurin Floyd sings Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb” as the judges tabulate scores.

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