Miss Maryland Christina Denny is proud of her Top 10 finish at last night's Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, where she was among the finalists who participated in talent, evening gown and swimsuit categories.
"I was just so excited," Denny recalled this afternoon from her home in Owings Mills. "That meant that I got to compete on national television. To keep hearing my name called out was so surreal."
Denny, 22, a special needs teacher and tutor for children with autism, felt confident going into the final night of the competition.
"I think I have a good chance," she said during the preliminaries leading up to Sunday's crowning moment.
The night of the finals, her confidence began to increase.
"I was just thinking that I hope I can go all the way," she said. "As it went on, I thought I could make top five. And I could win. Of course, that did not happen. But I did get the chance to sing on national television. It was a dream come true."
Denny sang "For Good" from the Broadway musical "Wicked." After the talent competition, the magnitude of her accomplishment sank in.
"I ran back in the dressing room and yelled, 'I got to sing on national TV,'" she said with a laugh.
Behind the scenes of the live broadcast, Denny recalled a frantic pace. "We had about two to three minutes between," she said. "We had to change and go."
Denny was surrounded at the pageant by about 15 family members, friends and members of the Miss Maryland Organization.
"It was a good night," said Denny's mother, Sheryl. "We're very happy with where she placed."
Denny said she could see her supporters while competing, which was a comfort to her. "Knowing that so many people were watching me and supporting me felt good," she said.
What does she think about the eventual winner, Miss New York Nina Davuluri, and first runner-up, Miss California Crystal Lee?
"Both of them are very talented," she said. "I wish I could have gotten to know them more while I was there. They're beautiful."
After returning to Maryland early Monday morning, Denny said she wants to get some much-needed sleep.
"It's nice to be home," Denny said. "I'm going to relax, catch up on some sleep, and then I will be back to being Miss Maryland."
Denny plans to spend the rest of the year serving her term as Miss Maryland. She'll also work part-time as a tutor, and apply to grad schools for speech pathology.
"I know my students miss me, and I miss them," she said. "I'm going to get started on my grad school applications and send those out. That will be the next thing that I do. That will be the next chapter of my life."