Cheers erupted outside Wantagh Elementary School as Juliet Watstein, of Wantagh High School, was crowned Miss Wantagh 2019. Wantagh High’s Grace Mansari was named first runner-up; Erin Cunnane, of Kellenberg Memorial High School, was second runner-up spot; and Angelina Maciak, of Wantagh High, was named third runner-up. Sara Jacobs and Valerie Pastore were named ambassadors.
“I can’t even describe what I’m feeling,” Watstein said after her selection. “I’m just really excited for the new year.”
Watstein, who will be a senior at the high school, served in the 2018 Miss Wantagh court as first runner up to Ashley Bailey. All six finalists in the pageant serve as a team, according to Samantha Walsh, Miss Wantagh 2017. “The court is a team that supports Miss Wantagh throughout the year,” Walsh said. “. . . Miss Wantagh [and her court lend] a helping hand through service projects, events, work with public officials and work with Wantagh organizations.”
Having been part of Bailey’s court last year will be an advantage for Watstein, who said she was excited to have the chance to serve this year as team leader.
The pageant itself, now in its 63rd year, began with the presentation of the candidates on June 26 in the Wantagh High School auditorium. Each of the six young women was introduced in a short video clip by her mother. Then each walked in to a song of her choosing before being asked a series of three questions by a panel made up of former Miss Wantaghs.
Six judges, including Herald-Citizen reporter Alexandra Dieckmann, rated the contestants in a variety of categories, including service to the community, communication skills, appearance and poise.
Pageant director Ella Stevens said that a desire to serve the community was the primary criterion by which contestants should be judged, adding, “Their beauty lies in that.”
Watstein, who will serve as president of her senior class next year, said she hoped for a career as a speechwriter or publisher. She is vice president of the school’s National Honor Society and editor in chief of The Warrior, the school newspaper. Mansari, who will be a sophomore in 2019-20, is a member of the varsity swim team and a Girl Scout Bronze Award recipient, and hopes for a career in criminal law.
Second Runner-up Cunnane, also a rising 10th-grader, teaches religion and belongs to the National Honor Society at Kellenberg. She wants to become a special-education teacher. Maciak, another sophomore-to-be, runs varsity track at Wantagh High, serves in student government and is fluent in Spanish and Polish. She also hopes to become a teacher.
Ambassadors Jacobs and Pastore, both rising sophomores, maintain high grade point averages. Jacobs is a published poet and dance teacher, has received honors in earth science and is a member of the varsity track team. Pastore, in addition to being an outstanding student, advocates for pit bull rights and is a standout track athlete.
Claudia Mansari said that her daughter, Grace, was part of the junior Miss Wantagh Club. As part of the senior club, which is open to sophomores, juniors and seniors, “she grew 100 percent” as she prepared for the pageant. “She learned how to speak, how to handle herself properly; she met and got along with a lot of wonderful people throughout the process. It was a wonderful experience.”
Bailey, last year’s winner, agreed emphatically. “I used to be shy, and I wanted to experience being outgoing,” she said. “At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it. But … it turned out to be the best thing that I’ve ever done.”
“My favorite part about Miss Wantagh is the bond that I made with everyone in the community,” Walsh recounted. “If you want to run, just reach out, and don’t be afraid. All of the girls are amazing, and it’s an opportunity that will change your life.”
— Mallory Wilson, Elisha Alif and Alexandra Dieckmann contributed to this story.