Ashley Boalch at her crowning as Miss D.C. 2011 last week. (Bruce Guthrie)

Rookies took two of the rhinestone crowns: Ashley Boalch is new Miss D.C. 2011 and Carlie Colella will represent Maryland. Virginia’s title went to pageant veteran Elizabeth Crot — who finally won on her fifth try.

The college students (one just graduated, two will be seniors) had a very modern reason for competing: money. Together, they’ve won more than $33,000 in scholarships, plus appearance fees that they’ll earn during their year-long reigns. And a shot at another $50,000 for the national title in January.

Not bad, especially if you don’t mind wearing a sash and crown in public. A brief look at the Misses:


Carlie Colella minutes after winning Miss Maryland last month. (Ric Dugan/AP)

• Miss Maryland 2011: At 20, Colella is the youngest of the three and never considered entering pageants until this winter, when she got an e-mail from the financial office of Hood College about different scholarship possibilities. The business marketing major needed extra money and signed up for the Miss Frederick contest. She didn’t even place.

But the Central Maryland pageant was the next weekend, and she was eligible for that one, too — so she figured “Why not?” and entered. “I just wanted to give it another shot,” she told us. This time, she won with her contemporary dance and platform of empowering women entering the workforce.

Her streak continued at the state contest in June where she won a preliminary swimsuit contest, was named “Rookie of the Year” and, ultimately, won the Miss Maryland title — with the $10,000 prize that will pay her senior year tuition. “That helps tremendously,” Colella said.

Will her beginner’s luck take the national title? No Miss Maryland has ever been Miss America.


Fifth time’s the charm: Elizabeth Crot celebrates with her fellow Miss Virginia contestants after her win June 25. (Rebecca Barnett/AP)

This is Crot’s last chance: She will have aged out of the Miss America program next year. After competing but never winning four local pageants, the 23-year-old took the state title last month as Miss Arlington. “I have the weirdest track record,” she said. “It was my last shot.”

She won by singing “Sempre Libera” from “La Traviata”; her platform is the importance of volunteerism. She got the title and almost $19,000. “I wiped out all my student loans in one night,” said the James Madison University grad. “I saw them as shackles and now they’re off.”

• Miss D.C. 2011: Another first-timer, but one who entered the pageant after meeting a number of the District’s past titleholders, especially Kate Michael. “The way they described their personal growth — who they were before and after — was really inspiring,” said Boalch, 23.


Miss D.C.: Yup, she wore the crown to get a post-pageant cheesburger. (Photo by Vithaya )

Capturing the title (and $5,000) was a blast. “Fun is not the word,” she said. “It was absolutely the best experience I’ve ever had.” Boalch was so thrilled that she wore her crown on a cheeseburger run immediately after the competition. “I was so excited, I couldn’t take it off.”

Now comes the hard part: The three women have six months to prepare for the national title; the finals will be broadcast live on ABC from Las Vegas on Jan. 14