It Runs in the Family

Mary Katherine Fechtel (center left) is crowned 2015 Miss UF by her sister and 2014 Miss UF, Elizabeth Fechtel, at the 2015 Miss University of Florida Scholarship Pageant in the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on Monday night.

One week ago, Jenny Moss would have never expected to be in a beauty pageant.

But when her sorority, Alpha Epsilon Phi, didn’t have a contestant for the annual Miss University of Florida Scholarship Pageant, she volunteered to take the spot, getting her first spray tan and becoming one of 21 women to compete for the crown.

The 22-year-old psychology senior stood on stage at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts as Mary Katherine Fechtel, representing Kappa Delta, was crowned Miss UF and won a $1,250 scholarship, a crown and gift cards from businesses across Gainesville.

“It’s definitely a confidence boost being a part of this,” Moss said. “It’s not like I’ve wanted this my whole life; it’s been pretty spontaneous. But it’s been a lot of fun.”

About 900 people attended the event to watch the women answer questions, model swimsuits and gowns and display an array of talents ranging from speedpainting and dancing to taekwondo.

For Brittany Lakhani, a 20-year-old biology junior competing on behalf of Pi Beta Phi, her taekwondo performance was the most nerve-wracking part of the evening. 

“I haven’t done nunchuks in about four or five years,” she said. “My mom says I make weird faces, so I was trying not to do that and not drop the nunchuks.”

Leslie Morgan, the pageant’s executive director, estimated this year’s production cost about $15,000.

“Miss University of Florida is a constantly growing role,” the 20-year-old biomedical engineering junior said. “It has become the role of someone who is involved in campus, passionate about student organizations — someone who wants to be involved in the community and UF as a whole.”

Fechtel, whose older sister Elizabeth was Miss UF 2014, said it was an honor to succeed her sister.

“I’m honored, and I appreciate everything she’s done for the program,” said the 19-year-old family, youth and community sciences junior. “I hope to follow in her footsteps.”

[A version of this story ran on page 6 on 2/17/2015 under the headline “Miss UF 2015 crowned, succeeds her sister in position"]