Pine Beauty Wins State Pageant

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You might not think that, after already winning six beauty pageant titles, racking up a seventh would mean all that much to Katie Lynn McNeely.

But it does.

Sunday night, this 25-year-old wife and mother from Pine was crowned the queen of the 11th Annual Ms. Country Western Arizona USA Pageant and the title means more to McNeely than all the other victories combined.

"This was my third time in this competition, and it was going to be my last, " she said, "because I need to be home with my son, Justice. I just decided I should try it one more time so I could do something for him."

One-year-old Justice Wyatt McNeely was recently diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, one of the 40 neuromuscular diseases recognized by the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

"It's a genetic disease. What they think happens is that a group of the cells in the spinal column either quits working or dies. Most commonly it affects the legs. Justice can't walk, and they don't know if he ever will. But we're hoping he becomes the one out of 100 (of those afflicted with the disease) that ends up walking."

But other pleasures come with the victory.

"My title represents Arizona, its heritage, its Western way of life and country music. We get involved with all the good stuff," she said with a satisfied grin. "And it also represents this area. This is the second year in a row that someone from the Rim country has taken (the title). Betsy Rose Rice of Payson was last year's winner."

The 11th Annual Ms. Country Western Arizona USA Pageant was held last weekend at the Skyline High School auditorium in Mesa. Contestants from all over the state were vying in four categories: Pre-teen, Junior Teen, Teen, and Ms. Country Western Arizona USA. Other winners from the Rim country were Emille Accord and Hester Kane, both of Payson, who were named the first runners-up for Junior Teen and Teen, respectively.

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