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It just isn't Preakness without a bikini competition, right?

The Infield bikini competition was held in the late morning today, so I scrambled from the awkwardness that was Kegasus’ man stall and weaved through a crowd of pervy guys and their angry girlfriends to catch the end of the event. Afterward, I chatted with the winner and couple of other competitors.

Julia Tirenna, 21, of Westminster won the crown, sash and cool cash prize and qualified for a national competition in the Bahamas. Not too shabby for her second career competition (her first was last week).

“Somebody saw me somewhere and ask me if I had done any modeling,” she said. “And it just kind of took off from there. … I was so excited to win. Being in my second competition, it’s very thrilling.”

I was the first person to grab her once Tirenna left the stage, but she plans on walking around the Infield in her crown, sash and bikini top all day, so I’m guessing I won’t be the only man who stopped her today. “We’ll see how the crowd reacts to it,” said the brunette. “I have a change of clothes, so we’ll see.”

Apparently, working on the bikini competition circuit can be a nice way to supplement your income, said last year’s winner, Rachel Vaughan, 22, of Harford County. Since winning, she has become a promotional model and made enough money in a year -- roughly $5,000 -- to pay for her nursing school classes.

“It was the most exciting ever,” Vaughan said about winning last year. “It was the first bikini contest I had ever done and I came in here and I won, and it was crazy -- the ‘Twilight Zone’ for me.”

And her boyfriend, Matt Hellmann, 21, of Kingsville, has supported her all the way -- without getting jealous.

“It’s awesome, man,” he said between puffs of a cigarette. “She’s making money. She’s trying to promote herself and she’s having a good time. … And I’m proud to say that’s my girlfriend up there.”

So outside of the prizes and a chance to win a trip to the Bahamas, what’s the allure of competing in one of these bikini competitions -- especially one that is randomly held during a horse racing event?

“It’s fun. I love being on stage,” explained Ashley Spielman, 26, of Washington, D.C., who appears on a reality show called “Ellismania” on Fuel TV. “I’ve been modeling, dancing, acting ever since I was little. It gives you a reason to stay in shape, too, because once you get to a certain age, you lose all the reasons.”

Easy for a 26-year-old bikini model to say.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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