You wouldn’t necessarily picture a beauty queen glistening with sweat on a volleyball court as she eyes her next kill, but Oregon senior Alaina Bergsma is not your typical gorgeous young woman who sports a crown and sash while giving a Queen Elizabeth-like wave.
No, there is much more to the reigning Miss Oregon USA than teased hair and fake tans. Bergsma is a top-notch student, one of the leaders of the Ducks’ second-ranked women’s volleyball team and a tireless volunteer in charity and community service work.
Bergsma had never participated in a beauty pageant before last November’s Miss Oregon USA contest, but her former high school teammate and friend Elizabeth Moore suggested that she should try it out. Moore was playing volleyball at UTEP when she won the Miss Texas USA crown in 2010.
“[Moore] said she would help me out, and said it would something other than sports on my résumé that would help me in whatever career I chose,” Bergsma said.
Moore coached Bergsma in the business of beauty pageants, even letting her borrow some of her clothes. Bergsma met with the pageant director and filled out some paperwork before she was selected to represent the Eugene area as Miss Lane County in the 2011 Miss Oregon USA pageant.
Bergsma had a blast participating in the competition, which happened to fall on the two days following last year’s NCAA tournament selection announcement. It was a pretty exciting weekend for Bergsma as the Ducks received an invite to the tournament and she won her first-ever beauty pageant.
“It was something completely different and let me embrace my feminine side – getting dressed up and being all girly,” Bergsma said.
Bergsma, a 6-foot-3 outside hitter originally from Chandler, Ariz., went on to compete in the Miss USA Pageant, which is owned by Donald Trump, in June. While Bergsma did not win, she garnered the Most Photogenic Award from the judges.
Bergsma was pleasantly surprised by the whole pageant world after watching movies and television shows that portray the competitions much differently.
“The girls are awesome,” Bergsma said. “They do a lot other than just school and pageants. They are really involved in the community, and that kind of surprised me. I was thinking it would be a little more superficial.”
In her role as Miss Oregon USA, Bergsma has served countless hours at speaking engagements and appearances, and has helped raise over $50,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network in Oregon, judging male pageant fundraisers at local high schools.
“It’s amazing how many doors have opened for the Miss Oregon USA title because I’m an athlete,” Bergsma said. “So many people are excited that I’m not just a beauty queen, but an athlete, and they want me to come talk to their groups. That’s exciting because everyone benefits.”
Oregon head coach Jim Moore and the Miss Oregon USA pageant director have worked with Bergsma as she juggles her hectic schedule.
“They are very understanding with my obligations to volleyball,” Bergsma said. “That’s what got me through this process…my coaches are very understanding and so it my pageant director. I was a lot more involved in the state in our off-season in the spring and summer. I’m only doing four events this fall.”
|WHAT ALAINA LIKES|
|Favorite Entrée/Dish: Steak or ribs|
|Favorite Movie: Gladiator|
|Favorite TV Comedy: That 70s Show|
|Favorite Video Game: Guitar Hero|
|Favorite Actor: Denzel Washington|
While Bergsma may have been busy with her duties as Miss Oregon USA during the past 11 months, her game has in no way suffered. In the ultra-competitive Pac-12 – yes, the league with five teams ranked in the top 10 – Bergsma ranks fifth in hitting percentage (.376) and second in kills per set (4.71). She is the only player in the league that ranks in the top 10 of both statistical categories, which is quite a feat.
“That just doesn’t happen,” Moore said. “To have somebody as an outlet hitter close to leading a conference like ours in hitting efficiency is just huge. She’s also our energy. She’s the person that brings the energy.”
Bergsma’s play is a key reason why the No. 2 Ducks are 14-0, and on top of the Pac-12 standings heading into a match with No. 7 Stanford on Oct. 5.
“I’ve been asked a lot what is the difference between this year and last year, and the one true biggest difference is Alaina,” Moore said. “She was really good at times last year, and so far, she’s been really good all the time this year. She’s become much more consistent. Her attack out of the back row is – if not the best in the country – certainly one of the best in the country. She’s significantly better.”
It’s more than just her play on the court that impresses Moore. It’s her leadership. In the preseason, the Ducks participated in a challenge dubbed “The Program” – a boot camp-style training event run by former U.S. Military Special Operations people.
The team was in the pool doing an exercise where they were taking on and off sweatshirts while treading water. When one of her teammates had trouble, she was the one who dove underwater and boosted them from below until they could get their sweatshirt on.
“At the end of the training, they gave away a T-shirt to the person who represents their core values,” Moore said. “Here’s a kid who is Miss Oregon – she owns the fact she’s a girly-girl, but when special ops people came to work with us, she’s the one who got the T-shirt representing their core values.”
Bergsma, who is majoring in Sports Business, also boasts a 3.6 grade-point average and is one of 30 candidates for the women’s volleyball 2012 Senior CLASS Award, which is given annually to a Division I senior who has notable achievements in four areas – community, classroom, character and competition.
After graduation, she plans on playing professional volleyball overseas for a few years, and marrying her high school sweetheart, Kevin Coble, who is former Northwestern basketball player and is playing professionally in Japan.