By G. SAM PIATT PDT Staff Writer
Natasha Vivoda already had some good memories of Portsmouth and Scioto County. Vivoda stayed in a cabin last November at Shawnee State Park and competed in the Miss Ohio USA 2008 pageant at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts on the campus of Shawnee State University.
This year her memories of the area will be even better as she came back to enter the pageant once again. And this time, on Saturday night, at the center, competing against 51 other contestants, she won the crown.
"It was beautiful up there in the southern Ohio hills, and even though I didn't win I enjoyed my time in the Portsmouth area," Vivoda said.
The new Miss Ohio USA 2009 is a senior at Youngstown State University majoring in physical therapy. She came to the Portsmouth pageant after being crowned Miss Trumbull County USA, in the Warren-Youngstown area.
She was crowned Saturday night by Monica Day, Miss Ohio USA 2008.
First Runnerup was Alexis Semach, Miss Delaware USA; Second Runnerup was Lehanna Craft, Miss Ohio River USA; Third Runner-up was Megan Wise, Miss Gallipolis USA; and Fourth Runner-up was Elizabeth Jesse, Miss Delhi USA.
Natasha said her mother, Paula Vivoda, gave her the most inspiration and she credited her for instilling in her the motivation to win the prestigious pageant.
She said contestants need to have confidence that they're going to win, to take one step at a time, to have a feeling that the crown is theirs.
"You feel it, it catches on -- and it worked," Natasha said.
She said she plans to use her reign to inspire others into believing in themselves.
In the audience, seated on the second row back, was a young woman who had her own motivational story. That was Stacy Offenberger, of Marietta, who won the Miss Ohio Teen USA 1998 pageant when she was 18 years old.
Her grandmother, Geneva Payne, became ill and died in 1999. Stacy promised her grandmother on her death bed that she would win the Miss Ohio USA title for her.
And she did it, even though it was nearly eight years later. She was crowned Miss Ohio USA 2006 at the center in Portsmouth and went on to finish as third Runner-up in the national Miss USA competition that year.
"My grandmother would have been so proud," Stacy said. "And that was all the inspiration I needed."
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, in a prepared statement issued from the statehouse, commended all of the more than 100 participants in the two contests held Saturday.
"Ohio's young people represent the future leadership of our state and nation," the governor said. "Many have learned the skills necessary for success from events like the one presented in Portsmouth on Saturday."