COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Oct. 2, 2009) – The competitive drive in 19-year-old Kelsey Moore (Chandler, Ariz.) has allowed her to blossom in two areas of her life, despite getting a late start in both compared to others her age.
Moore, a 6-foot-2 redshirt freshman playing middle blocker at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), has ambitions to play professional volleyball and possibly become a political reporter after her playing career is over. Both life treks may have gained significant jump starts through a conversation with a family friend and hard work this summer that resulted in two victories that will land her on a national stage come April 2010 as Miss Texas USA 2010 competing in the Miss USA 2010 Pageant. Before this year, pageants and any type of modeling were unknown to Moore.
“A friend of mine who is in the sports and entertainment business said that if I wanted a future in pro volleyball, that I should get my name out there, get in front of cameras and reporters,” Moore said about increasing potential sponsorship interest after college volleyball for a professional career in the sport and later a spot in front of the cameras reporting. “I started by entering the Miss El Paso USA Pageant, which is one of about 10 cities that have contests in Texas that earn spots in the Miss Texas USA Pageant, while other contestants just sign up to compete (without a preliminary contest).”
Moore ended up winning the Miss El Paso USA Pageant on June 6, 2009, as she competed against seasoned veterans in her first-ever pageant. With a ticket in hand to compete in the Miss Texas USA Pageant on Sept. 6, Moore dialed up her competitive instincts to perform well while preparing for her volleyball season at UTEP. She even missed a trip back home to the Phoenix area with the Miner team as she was competing in the pageant.
“My ultimate goal (at Miss Texas USA) was to win Best Swimsuit, which I did win,” said Moore, a blue-eyed blonde. “After that, the pressure was off and I could go in and just compete. However, the competitor in me took over and I wanted more.”
That inner desire for more and the hard work during the summer paid off. Moore advanced to the final five. And by the end of the night, she had outshined the other 106 competitors and was wearing the Miss Texas USA crown as part of a prize package valued at $70,000 for the winner.
Upon arriving back in El Paso from the pageant, Moore was taken aback from her newfound celebrity status.
“One of the coolest things was coming back to El Paso,” Moore said. “People in the airport said that I was glowing and wanted to meet me and see why I was so happy. I was shocked by how many people already knew me after a day.”
Part of her pageant awards package included a custom 14-carat white and yellow gold official crown with 32 diamonds, a 14-carat gold and diamond Miss Texas USA pendant necklace designed exclusively for Miss Texas USA by I.W. Marks Jewelers, competition wardrobe, partial scholarship to New York Film Academy, speech and communication training, a trip to Mexico, a $45,000 scholarship to a college in Missouri and much more.
Despite being a student-athlete on a full volleyball scholarship at UTEP, Moore does not anticipate any problems with receiving her prize package.
“We are still talking with the NCAA, but everything of monetary value I received not because of being a UTEP athlete,” Moore said. “It is separate and should not affect my eligibility. I probably will not take some of the prizes, including a scholarship to Lindenwood University as I am already on full scholarship and I would need to live in Texas to represent the state.”
The biggest prize, though, is an entry into the Miss USA Pageant and representing Texas at the event scheduled for April 18 at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.
Just as she was new to the pageant world in 2009, Moore ventured out of her comfort zone five years ago to find the sport of volleyball and started playing against teammates and opponents who had taken up the sport much earlier in life. She had been playing basketball since age five and excelled in track and field on the side. However, she had never played competitive volleyball until her freshman year in high school.
“With the encouragement of my coach, I tried out for the volleyball team at Savannah Christian Preparatory for my freshman year while living in Georgia,” Moore said. “My coach at the time told me that you can’t teach height, and if I can work hard, that I could be good in the sport. Well, I didn’t have the greatest first year, but something clicked that summer after my first year.”
As a sophomore at Savannah Christian Preparatory, she led her team to a state championship in 2005. Along the way, she garnered 2005 Offensive Player of the Year honors and was selected to the Greater Savannah Area first-team and all-region squads. In addition, she was her school’s most valuable player in track and field as a sophomore.
A family move to the Phoenix area helped propel Moore’s volleyball skills to the next level. She transferred to Valley Christian High School in Chandler, Ariz., and earned first-team all-state as a junior. During her senior season, Moore helped Valley Christian to a share of the 2A Central League title in 2007 and was again named all-state.
With the move to Arizona came a new outlet through volleyball within the USA Volleyball club system. She joined Arizona Juniors and continued to expand her volleyball knowledge by training under Molly Stark – one of the most respected volleyball coaches in Arizona after a professional volleyball career of her own – and playing outside the prep system.
At the same time, she made an unpopular decision to some of her friends and family by focusing on volleyball as her only sport. Her father Pat was part of the Central Washington University track and field team form 1975-79, and a move away from track and field was a moment of concern that his daughter overcame.
“I moved back to Arizona for my junior year, and there was a good club system in place,” Moore said. “I played for Arizona Juniors under Molly Stark, who was also the head coach at my high school (Valley Christian High School). Our 17-1 club team did really well in the area and went to nationals my junior year. At that time, I also quit track and focused on volleyball.”
That drive to focus only on volleyball paid off in the end. Moore earned a full-ride scholarship to UTEP despite her limited time competing in the sport of volleyball. After redshirting the 2008-2009 college season to hone her skills even further, she has started to contribute significantly to the UTEP volleyball team this fall despite the hectic past summer with the Miss Texas USA pageant. One would not have faulted her for sitting out the season. But that was not in the equation for the electronics media major.
“God has a plan,” Moore said on why she chose to continue playing volleyball. “I am here in El Paso to play volleyball, but at the same time, I was encouraged to be in the Miss El Paso USA pageant. I am new to the world of pageants. I have been fortunate that all my supporters have worked around my volleyball commitments and have been patient with me.
“The Miss Texas USA organization understands that volleyball is paying for my college. They have taken a step back to allow me to concentrate on my volleyball season. Once the season is over, I will go full force to prepare for Miss USA. But right now, I am able to focus on the volleyball aspects of my life.”
Through Sept. 24, Moore has played in eight matches with three starts. She is averaging 1.92 points per set, including 1.05 blocks per set, to go with a .292 hitting efficiency. In a match against 2008 NCAA Tournament participant Tulane on Sept. 17, Moore tallied six kills and nine blocks in a five-set loss.
Moore believes part of her success in the pageant system can be attributed to skills and physical conditioning she has picked up playing volleyball. For as long as she can remember, working out has been a part of her schedule.
“I learned from volleyball that setting goals is key in life,” Moore said. “I also have a very competitive drive regardless of what arena I am in.”
While she has learned things from volleyball, Moore has a message for youth volleyball players, or anyone, who may reach a point in life where they need to make their own hard decisions.
“I would encourage youth today to work hard for whatever is important to you, not what society wants or what your parents want,” Moore said. “You need to trust your heart. If you are good in more than one thing, you will be tugged in more than one direction. You need to know your limits and find out what is right for you. Once you have determined that, go full force. You need to want it for yourself and not for anyone else.”
Besides her time playing volleyball and her recent success in pageants, Moore keeps busy within her community. She participates in a high school tutoring program, volunteers at volleyball camps, works with the Boys and Girls Club, makes food bags for the needy and involves herself with many other organizations and churches.
With several months of volleyball followed by preparation for the pageant, Moore has already formulated some goals for the Miss USA Pageant next April in Las Vegas.
“I do want to win the Best Swimsuit contest at Miss USA,” Moore said. “With my nutrition and work-out ethic, I think it is possible. But it will be tougher as the girls competing at the Miss USA pageant will be at a higher level. As a competitor, I want to be there at the end and do well in all areas. I am being trained by the best here with the Miss Texas USA support group, and I should have the best outcome in return.”
When she arrives on stage at the Miss Texas USA Pageant, Moore will be ready to represent the state of Texas – even though her biography on the UTEP Web site lists her hometown as Chandler, Ariz., She considers herself a Texan and is proud to represent her adopted state at the Miss USA Pageant. Her parents previously lived in the state and Kelsey spent some summers in the Lone Star State.
“It is a huge blessing and honor to represent Texas, which is huge in the pageant system,” Moore said. “I like living here. There are lots of good people here and supporting me. Representing Texas is such a good opportunity for me.”
Regardless of the outcome at the Miss USA Pageant, this experience has provided Moore a lasting memory.
“I will remember all the support from the pageant, not just for me, but for everyone in the crowd and those involved with the pageant. They truly wanted all the girls to take away a great, enjoyable experience.”
So for now, Moore is enjoying her experience as a member of the Miner volleyball team and the tiara remains at home. A few weeks before the calendar turns to 2010, her competitive drive turns to her newfound passion of pageants and she will trade her tennis shoes for evening gowns and swimsuits representing Texas at the Miss USA Pageant.