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'Sis' America

Back row from left: Kellie Evans, Montana Tolle, Jeanette Weng, Brittany Barnhisel, Mary Frances Meier.
Front row from left: Becca Wilson, Rachel Kerns, Stacy Henthorne, Morgan Sperry, Allie Snoke

ONU Delta Zetas support one of their own at the 2013 Miss America Competition in Las Vegas.


As “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences go, traveling to Las Vegas to cheer on your sorority sister as she tries to become Miss America has got to be high on the list.

For a group of current and former Ohio Northern University Delta Zeta sorority sisters, the opportunity to do just that proved too good to pass up. More than a dozen DZs are in Las Vegas this week supporting their sorority sister and reigning Miss Ohio, Elissa McCracken, as she vies to become the 87th Miss America.

“Elissa is such an inspiration to everyone, and everybody loves her because she has such a kind and genuine personality,” says senior pharmacy major Brittany Barnhisel of Van Buren, Ohio. “So it’s just natural that so many people want to support her.”

McCracken’s friends have supported her throughout her journey, traveling to the Miss Ohio competitions the past two years. This week, her friends are attending each of the preliminary competitions and doing their best to connect with McCracken, even though her time is strictly regimented by the demands of the competition. Some bought backstage passes that allow visits with McCracken for an hour backstage after each preliminary competition, and everyone has been texting her nonstop with messages of support and good luck.

The Miss America Competition is held throughout the week, with contestants broken up into three groups and each group competing in a different category each day. McCracken began the competition on Monday with the interview portion, followed by her talent performance on Tuesday, on-stage question on Wednesday, and the swimsuit and eveningwear portion on Thursday. The top 14 contestants from the preliminary rounds, along with a contestant chosen by a public vote, compete on Saturday evening for the crown.
“Tuesday was my third or fourth time watching Elissa perform, and I texted her afterwards to ask her how she thought she’d done,” says Barnhisel. “She said that she felt that it was one of her best performances ever.”

Confidence is always a good trait for any competitor, and, according to her friends, McCracken has plenty as a result of all the hard work, time and effort she has put into this competition. She also is buoyed by her platform to end cyberbullying, something that she herself has experienced.

“She’s having the time of her life. You can see it,” says Stacy Henthorne, a senior pharmacy major from Munroe Falls, Ohio. “It’s exciting to be here watching her live through this.”

When the DZs aren’t cheering on McCracken, they are having a wonderful time exploring Las Vegas and connecting with alumni. It has become a mini-reunion of sorts, something for which Amanda Liska, BA ’11, credits the tight-knit nature of the Delta Zeta chapter at ONU.

“Being a student at a smaller school like Northern, you really have the opportunity to make these really deep connections,” she says. “I honestly don’t believe that we would be as close if we were at a different school.”

After winning Miss Ohio this year, chapter members started Facebook groups in support of McCracken and used social media to spread the word that one of there own had made it so far. But it’s not like these sisters needed much convincing.

“I think it was pretty clear for all of us when she won Miss Ohio. We just thought, ‘We have to go. We have to go’,” says Liska.