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Miss Utah 2016: Preliminary awards announced night before crowning of Miss Utah

The state will soon have a new Miss Utah.

The final night of preliminary competition for the 50 contestants at this year’s Miss Utah pageant wrapped up at Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City Friday.

On Saturday, the field of 50 contestants will immediately be cut down to the top 11, with a 12th added in the form of a People’s Choice contestant. These 12 titleholders will then compete for the Miss Utah 2016 crown.

Titleholders competed Friday in the category of lifestyle and fitness, talent or on-stage question and evening wear. Each contestant also had a private interview with the judges prior to the beginning of this year's competition Wednesday.

On Friday, Miss Rocky Mountain Shakelle Valdez took home the preliminary award in the lifestyle and fitness category, and Miss Heart of Utah, JessiKate Riley, claimed the talent award. Riley played her own arrangement of “Praeludium and Allegro” on violin.

Valdez, a graduate of Utah Valley University in business management, will receive a $100 scholarship. "It feels amazing, it was one of my goals from the very beginning and so I'm super proud that I was able to accomplish it," Valdez said.

Riley, a junior at Brigham Young University studying violin performance, said, "I just feel really honored and it's such a privilege to perform on such a great stage. Honestly, I put talent on my last night so I could look forward to something all week and it was the best moment of the whole week." Riley will also receive a $100 scholarship.

Prior preliminary award winners for the week in the lifestyle and fitness category were Miss Greater Salt Lake Natalie Barker and Miss Nebo, Brynn Christensen. Miss Orem, Jessica Craig, and Miss Utah County, Lizzy Palmatier, took home earlier preliminary awards in talent. All three talent preliminary award-winners played the violin.

Each year, one contestant is chosen to receive the Sadie Huish Memorial Award, which is given in honor of Sadie Huish, a Miss Utah Little Miss who passed away in 2009 after a 16-month battle with brain cancer. Huish's family chooses the contestant to win the award, and this year, Miss Lehi, Caitlin Thomas, was selected. Thomas’s platform is titled, “CHOOSE TO LIVE: Suicide Awareness and Prevention.”

The Miss Utah UVU Leadership Award, which consists of $1,000 in scholarships and $1,000 donated to a charity of the contestant’s choice, went to Miss Northern Utah County, Lauren Wilson.

Miss Utah, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, will wrap up Saturday night.

Article author Jackie Hicken is on the board of the Miss Utah Organization.