Nov. 18, 2009

By Jennifer Gunnels

University of Texas-El Paso volleyball player Kelsey Moore is no longer just the queen of the court.

The redshirt freshman middle blocker was named Miss El Paso last June in the first pageant she ever entered. Moore went on to become Miss Texas USA in September and will compete for the title of Miss USA in April.

An electronic media major, Moore is pursuing a career in political broadcast journalism. When a family friend suggested that she enroll in a local pageant to gain experience in public speaking, Moore found herself with less than a month to prepare for her first appearance on the pageant stage.

“I was one of the last girls, if not the last, to sign up for Miss El Paso,” Moore said. “Thankfully with volleyball I was in shape, and that’s a lot of the work that girls have to do to get ready. But I had to work on my posture, my poise, how to walk in those heels.”

Although she lacked the pageant experience of other contestants, Moore had enough athletic experience to know that practice is half the battle.

“I’m very, very competitive. I don’t care if it’s rock throwing, I want to beat you at it,” Moore said.

It was that competitive drive that led Moore to spend up to five hours a day practicing for her premiere pageant.

“Kelsey is never intimidated by any situation, and I think a lot of that comes from her experience in athletics,” said Miners head coach Ken Murphy. “I think athletes at this level have a tremendous amount of confidence and an ability to perform in pressure situations. I never thought those qualities would show up in something like this, but I’m really proud of her for it.”

After claiming the title of Miss El Paso, Moore had more time to prepare for Miss Texas USA in September, but the second pageant would present different obstacles. By September, the Miners’ volleyball season was in full swing and the pageant occurred the same weekend as a tournament.

“I’d never had a player miss a match like that before,” said Murphy. “I think it started small with the idea of the Miss El Paso pageant, and then it just grew from there. We were excited about the fact that she had this opportunity, but we were all concerned about the possible negative impact on the team.”

Moore sat down with teammates to explain her motivations for pursuing the crown.

“I just tried to convey to my teammates that it’s not just a beauty pageant. This was about preparing for my career. Once I was able to express that to them, they were very supportive,” Moore said.

Murphy concurred.

“We talked it through and decided that it would be a positive thing for the team and for Kelsey. When we heard that she had won Miss Texas, we were all really excited for her and for the avenues it might open for her career,” he said.

Days after being named Miss Texas USA, Moore was back on the court with her teammates, ready to focus on the volleyball season at hand. After the season, Moore will invest more time in preparing for the Miss USA pageant on April 18 in Las Vegas. As part of an extensive prize package, Moore will receive hair and makeup lessons as well as speech and on-camera training with professionals in Houston, where Miss Texas USA is headquartered.

“I’ll spend a couple of weeks over break in Houston doing some preparations, and I’ll host Miss Texas Teen USA in a few weeks,” Moore said.
A few appearances are required, but for the most part Moore is able to work with the Miss Texas USA office to schedule appearances around her class and volleyball schedule.

“Personally, I was concerned about her juggling the demands of pursuing something like this and the demands of being a Division I athlete and a student,” Murphy said. “To her credit, she’s done a great job juggling all of those things and making it work.” Moore has already made several appearances as Miss Texas USA this fall, and will appear at the Rotary Lombardi Award ceremony in Houston next month.

“It’s cool getting to meet people I never would have been able to meet it if I wasn’t in that situation,” Moore said. “It really opens up a lot of doors to great opportunities, and that’s what I was hoping for.”

For now, Moore is focused on maintaining her grades and doing her part to pursue the team’s goal of receiving a berth to the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship.

“I would love to see my team go to the NCAA tournament while I’m here. If we can keep our mental game where our physical game is, I think we can get there,” Moore said of the Miners (11-18), who finished the season last weekend at Tulane.

Moore’s first love was basketball, but at 6-2, her height eventually led her to discover volleyball during her freshman year of high school. The Arizona native led Savannah Christian Preparatory to a state volleyball championship in Georgia in 2005 before transferring to Valley Christian High School in Chandler, where she earned all-state honors. Moore says it was her athletic background that did the most to prepare her for success in the pageant world.

“Being in sports, especially at the collegiate level, there’s a lot of responsibility in that,” Moore said. “You learn how to take criticism not in a bad way, but in a way that makes you better. I think that’s any collegiate athlete. If you’ve got the drive and the ‘want to,’ you’ve got all the tools you need.”

She added that her experience in pageants has taught her not to limit herself.

“I wish I had thought of doing something like this earlier,” Moore said. “We’re capable of so much more than we think we are. I’ve had a blast with this, and I think you just never know. It’s been a wonderful experience.”