CARMICHAELS – The first time was a charm Sunday evening. It was the first time a student from Connellsville Area High School won the title of Pennsylvania Bituminous Coal Queen. It was also the first pageant for the young lady who took the crown, Marina Stefano. Stefano, 17, is a daughter of Patrick and Christina Tesauro-Stefano of Connellsville.
“I’m speechless. It is a relief for it to be over. You don’t want to feel too confident. Everyone is so good. But, I did feel confident, just not overly confident,” Stefano said after being crowned.
Three hours after the pageant started inside the Stan Ferek Auditorium at Carmichaels Area High School, a court of five were selected.
The fourth runner-up was Gabrielle Omatick, daughter of David and Lori Omatick of Connellsville, representing Geibel High School.
The third runner-up was Jenna McCracken, daughter of Chad and Jennifer McCracken of Waynesburg, representing Waynesburg Central High School.
The second runner-up was Kendall Lewis, daughter of Mark and Jeanette Lewis of Carmichaels, of Carmichaels Area High School, and the first runner-up was Chelsea Feudale, daughter of Beth Hutson of McClellandtown and James Feudale of Leechburg, representing Albert Gallatin High School.
Several other awards were presented during the pageant.
Miss Congeniality, as selected by the contestants, was Sidney Popielarcheck, daughter of John and Nikki Kinstlich Popielarcheck of Washington, who represented Trinity Area High School.
The Top Sponsorship Award went to Mackenzie Moore, daughter of Gregory and Terri Bartolomucci, who represented Beth-Center Area High School.
The Interview Award went to Feudale and the Evening Gown Award went to Lewis.
The On-Stage Question Award went to Johnna Purcell, daughter of Jack and Annamarie Purcell of Farmington, who represented Uniontown Area High School.
Stefano was selected to receive the Community Bank Most Photogenic Award and took the category of top talent with her dance number. She has been performing since the age of 7 in community musical theater productions, including parts in “Beauty and the Beast,” “Grease,” “A Chorus Line” and “The Sound of Music,” among others.
The pageant category she found most challenging was the onstage question.
“They asked if there was one thing you could change about yourself what would it be, and why,” Stefano said.
She told the judges there wasn’t anything she would change. Stefano said this is because it is all a part of the person she has become. Everyone has weaknesses, she said, noting the key is to turn them into strengths.
Stefano was a student of the Koza and Company dance studio for nine years before moving on to the Pittsburgh CLO Academy. She is also a vocal student of Ricardo Tobia of Pittsburgh and has studied piano as a student of Levi Graft of Connellsville.
Stefano is a member of the National Honor Society, student council, chamber ensemble, Thespian Honor Society and the All-States Program.
Both sides of Stefano’s family have been active in the coal mining industry. Her paternal great-grandfather, Steven Susa, was a coal miner before working his way up into management in one of the Frick mines. He followed in the footsteps of his own father, who also worked as a coal miner. Her maternal great-grandfather, Stanley Squirek, also worked in the mining industry in the Lemont Furnace fields.
Stefano’s future plan is to attend a performing art school to become a dance instructor. She currently does dance therapy with a young autistic boy and said she would like to do something for autistic children as Coal Queen.
Eventually, she would like to earn a nursing degree in the field of plastic surgery.