Nebraskan makes it to semifinals, but falls short in Miss Universe

Nebraskan makes it to semifinals, but falls short in Miss Universe
Sarah Rose Summers (World-Herald News Service)

You can be sure of this about Papillion South grad Sarah Rose Summers in her bid to become Miss Universe: She gave it her all.

That was the assessment of the young women at a Miss Universe watch party at Papillion-La Vista South High School on Sunday evening — some of whom had competed against her, and others who, still young, are following in her footsteps.

“She was a tough competitor,” said Bree Coffey, who was runner-up to Summers in the Miss Nebraska USA competition in January. Coffey has assumed the duties and crown of Miss Nebraska USA now that Summers has moved up to Miss USA.

Summers was the first Miss Nebraska to win the Miss USA competition, and thus was the first on the world stage of Miss Universe.

“I don’t think Nebraska or the USA could have had a better representative,” said Michaela Edstrand, who was crowned Miss Nebraska Teen USA at the same January competition where Summers won.

“Sarah represented Nebraska so well because she embodies what the state is about,” Edstrand said. “She isn’t afraid to be herself, and she is so genuine.”

Summers made it as far as the semifinals Sunday evening in the Miss Universe competition in Bangkok. Miss Philippines won the event.

Perhaps the youngest among those at the watch party was 5-year-old Matthew Huff, who came with his mother, Jen Huff Schwandt, and grandmother Patty Huff, all of Papillion. The Huffs wanted to support Summers in her bid.

”Go USA,” Matthew chimed in during the watch party.

Sitting in the auditorium at Papillion South, Phoenix Stanford, Miss Douglas County Outstanding Teen, said Summers set an example of what is possible.

“It’s important that she know that people back home are supporting her,” Phoenix, 14, said.

Not lost on those in the auditorium was the dust-up that occurred when Summers remarked on the difficulty a handful of contestants had understanding English. Summers apologized afterward, saying she realized that her comments, meant to show admiration, could be interpreted as not being respectful. “My life, friendships, and career revolve around me being a compassionate and empathetic woman,” she said in her apology. “I would never intend to hurt another.”

That apology reflects the true Sarah Rose Summers, said Gillian Pearson, who represented Papillion and La Vista at the Miss Nebraska Teen USA pageant earlier this year.

“The way she recovered from that represents who she is,” Pearson said. “She dealt with the controversy extremely well.”

Pearson said Summers won the mentor award during the joint Miss Nebraska and Miss Nebraska Teen competitions.