MANATEE COUNTY -- Three young women from Manatee County will compete in the 2013 Miss Florida pageant.
Noelle Beauchamp, 22, and Lauren Routh, 21, are in competition for young women ages 17 to 24.
Sarah Adams, 15, will compete for the Miss Florida's Outstanding Teen title for ages 13 to 17.
Competition can become intense, so these first-time contestants lean on each other for support.
"We are actually good friends," said Routh, the 2012 De Soto Heritage Festival Queen. "I met Noelle through the Hernando de Soto Historical Society."
Adams, the 2013 MissManatee County Fair's Outstanding Teen, is her cousin, Routh said, adding that it's good to go into the competition with family support nearby.
The Miss Florida and Miss Florida's Outstanding Teen pageant finals take place Saturday at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg following preliminaries Tuesday through Friday.
Competition requires months of preparation and each contestant had a regimen to ready for Miss Florida week.
Beauchamp, the 2013 Miss Manatee County Fair, said she met weekly with her pageant director to practice interview questions, and she took vocal lessons.
Adams and Routh followed similar routines, although Routh said her
preparation happened in random spurts.
The Miss Florida pageant is a preliminary to the Miss America pageant. Roughly 81 teens and young women will compete for the two state titles this year.
Pageant winners receive a scholarship, the coveted crown and represent Florida at the national Miss America and Miss America's Outstanding Teen pageants.
Contestants are judged on:
private interview sessions with a five-judge panel;
how they model swimwear and evening wear;
a talent demonstration and;
answering the onstage question.
In addition to winning a local title, each contestant must have a cause of their own and must raise money for the Children's Miracle Network -- the Miss America Organization national platform.
Adams is the top fundraiser for teens after selling the most ads in the Miss Florida booklet.
The Manatee County contestants have a deep civic service background and were a good fit for the pageant system, officials said.
For example, Beauchamp is "Raising Awareness for Families with Disabilities." She has a cousin with Down Syndrome and wants more people to know what families go through in dealing with the genetic disorder and how volunteers can help.
"This is not only something close to my heart. It's my life's goal," said Beauchamp, who plans to be an occupational therapist who works with children with disabilities.
Adams, a member of the Future Farmers of America at Braden River High School, is stumping for "Young Women in Agriculture."
Her mother, Teresa Adams, said she likes competing in the Miss America Organization because of its emphasis on service.
"She wants to show that you can do all of that and still be a queen," said Teresa Adams. "You can be a well-rounded lady and do anything."
Routh's platform is "Breast Cancer Awareness" because her mother and other family members suffered from the disease. If crowned Miss Florida, Routh said she hopes to garner more help for those with breast cancer. "I want to target people who are suffering," said Routh. "I know their struggles."
Manatee County has raised many Miss Florida pageant title holders, including Ellen Meade, now a Manatee County Fair pageant director.
Wendy Mungillo works alongside Meade as a pageant director preparing Manatee County Fair title holders for the Miss Florida pageant.
Vernon DeSear, another pageant director for the Manatee County Fair, has even judged two Miss America pageants. He's been helping Manatee County re-engage in the Miss America Organization and said this group has a shot at winning.
"They are very capable and talented young ladies," said DeSear.
"If it's God's will for me to win then that's phenomenal," said Beauchamp. "If I don't win I'll still be happy and grateful for the experience."
IF YOU GO What: 2013 Miss Florida Outstanding Teen Pageant Where: MahaffeyTheater, 400 First St. S., St. Petersburg When: 3:20 p.m. Saturday Finals: Top 11 compete Crowning: 7 p.m. Saturday
What: Miss Florida Finals: Top 11 compete Crowning: For more information on competition times visit MissFlorida.org or call 727-892-5798.
Janey Tate, Herald reporter, can be reached at 745-704 or on Twitter @Janey_Tate.