By OSKAR GARCIA
The Associated Press
LAS VEGAS — A 17-year-old from Nebraska became the youngest winner of the Miss America crown in 90 years on Saturday after beating 52 other young women from across the United States.
Teresa Scanlan won a $50,000 scholarship and a yearlong run with the crown at the competition Saturday night at the Planet Hollywood casino-resort in Las Vegas, giving the Cornhusker State its first-ever win at the pageant.
She was the youngest Miss America since the pageant's first competition in 1921, when Margaret Gorman of the District of Columbia won at age 15.
Miss Arkansas Alyse Eady won $25,000 as first runner-up, while Miss Hawaii Jalee Fuselier won $20,000 for third place.
Scanlan, a recent high school graduate from the western Nebraska town of Gering, planned to study American politics at Patrick Henry College in Virginia after her reign as Miss America.
She also hoped to attend law school, become a judge and eventually a politician, according to her pageant biography.
Scanlan won after strutting in a black bikini and a white evening gown, playing "White Water Chopped Sticks" on piano and telling the audience that when it comes to Wikileaks, security should come before public access to government information.
"You know when it came to that situation it was actually based on espionage, and when it comes to the security of our nation, we have to focus on security first and then people's right to know, because it's so important that everybody who's in our borders is safe and so we can't let things like that happen and they must be handled properly," she said.
The pageant celebrated its 90th anniversary this year.
Just five contestants were asked questions during the interview portion of the show after 10 showcased their talents at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.
Those questioned were Scanlan; Fuselier, Eady, Miss Washington Jacquie Brown and Miss Oklahoma Emoly West.
The questions ranged in topics from health care to Wikileaks, the website.
That means the eliminated after the talent portion were Miss Arizona Kathryn Bulkley; Miss California Arianna Afsar; Miss Delaware Kayla Martell; Miss Virginia Caitlin Uze, and Miss Kentucky Djuan Trent.
Miss Texas Ashley Melnick and Miss New York Claire Buffie were dropped when the final 12 were trimmed to 10.
The contestants — from every state plus the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico — started the show by dancing up the aisles at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas while wearing silver cocktail dresses.
Ms. Senior America pageant celebrates women over 60
In her introduction to the audience, Bulkley dedicated her performance to U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head last week in Tucson. Bulkley called Giffords her mentor.
The finalists strutted across the stage in black bikinis, while a panel of seven judges eyed them for looks and fitness. The competition also includes evening gown, talent and interview portions, with eliminations along the way.