Iowa State University track athlete Kaci Storm had to tell her coach she couldn't run hurdles at an upcoming meet for an odd reason ... she'll be in Springfield competing in the 2013 Miss Illinois County Fair Pageant.
"It's one of the more unusual reasons for missing practice and a meet," said Storm.
Last June, the Geneseo native was crowned the 2012 Miss Henry County Fair Queen. As such, she will represent the county at the state level in hopes of being selected to reign at the 2013 Illinois State Fair.
"A lot of preparation has gone into making sure I'm ready for the pageant," said Storm, 18.
"I've done a lot of work on my speech and I've watched videos of previous state fair pageants so I know what to expect," she said.
The 2013 Miss Illinois County Fair Pageant will be Jan. 17-20 at the Crowne Plaza in Springfield.
Storm will be contestant No. 57 of the 72 women competing in the pageant.
"I'm looking forward to having fun and getting to meet the other fair queens." she said.
On Jan. 6, friends and family hosted a send-off party for Storm at First Lutheran Church in Geneseo.
Those in attendance wrote down "pop" questions for Storm to answer in preparation for her state appearance.
"The questions were all sorts of things from, 'How old were you when you first drove a combine with your grandpa?' to 'What cartoon animal would you be?'" she said.
Storm said she appreciated the chance to practice for the Q&A portion of the pageant.
"For some reason the pop questions make me the most nervous. I don't know why, because they don't count for the most points, but being on stage in front of all those people and having to answer questions gets the nerves going," Storm explained.
In addition to family and friends, Storm has received pre-pageant assistance from several who have experienced the state pageant themselves.
"Dana Brock (Miss Henry County Fair 2011) has been a huge help. She's done mock interviews with me and offered critiques," said Storm.
"I've also talked with Jackie Driscoll about her experience," said Storm. Driscoll, the 2010 Miss Henry County Fair, became the first Henry County queen to earn the state crown when she won the pageant in 2011.
"I have such an amazing Henry County pageant family, and they've been so supportive," she said.
Since being crowned Miss Henry County in June, Storm has enjoyed her time as queen.
"Being able to help out at the fair I've always loved and gone to was wonderful. It was my dream since I was little to be in the pageant," she said.
Page 2 of 2 - During the summer, Storm attended festivals, parades and events throughout Henry County.
"It was nice to have a chance to talk to so many different people," Storm said.
The experience in general has been a lot of fun. If I were to win (the state pageant), it would just be icing on the cake," she said.
Storm is a 2012 graduate of Geneseo High School. She is the daughter of Brad and Shari Storm.