In seven days, a talented and accomplished local woman will compete for the title of Miss America.
Twenty years ago, another talented and accomplished local woman did the same and came within two people of winning the crown.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Shipshewana native Shelli Yoder’s journey to Atlantic City as Miss Indiana. This week, the current Miss Indiana Jackie Jerlecki is in Las Vegas, the pageant’s current home, competing against 52 other young ladies for the title.
There are a few similarities between the two women. Both are vocalists. Jerlecki has more than 100 supporters making the trip to Vegas. Yoder had four busloads of supporters make the drive to Atlantic City.
Both also won the Miss Indiana title on their third try. Jerlecki competed as Miss Elkhart County and Miss Duneland. She was a non-finalist her first try; in the top 11 in 2010 as Miss Elkhart County; and won the crown in 2011 as Miss Duneland.
Yoder, now living in Bloomington with her husband and three children, competed at state as Miss Limberlost at age 18. She sat out of pageants for five years, then won the Limberlost title again and was first runner-up at Miss Indiana. A year later, in 1992, she competed as Miss Elkhart County and won the state crown.
At the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City in September 1992 Yoder won a preliminary swimsuit award and a final placing as second runner-up.
Yoder and Jerlecki also met up in a rather unusual situation in 2010.
“I had the somewhat uncomfortable job of judging Miss Indiana in 2010,” Yoder said.
That was an anniversary year and Miss Indianas from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s were asked to be judges.
“That was so hard for me,” Yoder said. “I was Miss Elkhart (County) so my heartstrings were touched.”
She said the job of a judge is to decide who is ready to take on the job of Miss Indiana at that exact time.
“It wasn’t that time for Jackie,” she said. “I hope she doesn’t have any ill feelings of me from that. She is an extraordinary young woman. It is exactly her time, now.”
In an interview in The Goshen News right after being crowned Miss Indiana, Jerlecki also talked about that timing. She had graduated in December, 2010, with a double major in musical theater and youth theater, so was ready to take on the duties of Miss Indiana.
“This (the title) really came at a good time in my life,” Jerlecki said.