|By Paula Canning|
SOUTH HADLEY As an athlete who has been playing basketball since a young child, 17-year old Felicia Mihalak is more likely to be found on the court, sporting her Holyoke Catholic High School uniform, than modeling an evening gown.
But come Nov. 19 and 20, Mihalak's 5'7" frame will be strutting the runways in evening gowns and swimsuits during the Miss Massachusetts Teen USA 2005 Pageant.
"I'm kind of a reserved person, this isn't something I normally do," said the Holyoke Catholic High senior.
With no prior interest in pageants, acting, or modeling, Mihalak said wanting to take part in the pageant was a spontaneous decision.
"They made an announcement at school that they had applications in the office if anyone was interested," she said. "So I just suddenly decided I would do it and went down to the office to fill [the application] out."
After submitting a photo along with her application, the South Hadley resident was asked to go in for an interview, after which she was chosen to take part in the pageant.
Mihalak, a member of the yearbook staff and the Christian Leadership program at Holyoke Catholic, said she's hoping the pageant will be a "fun experience."
"I'm looking forward to meeting and working with a lot of new people," she said.
Mihalak is looking towards the pageant, which will take place at the Marriott Hotel in Quincy, with a mixed feeling of excitement and apprehension.
"I know it's going to be fun but I'm also a little nervous because I don't know what exactly [the judges] are going to be critiquing," said Mihalak, who is an employee of Bernies Dining Depot in Chicopee.
She added with a laugh, "I'm really hoping that I'm not going to fall on my face."
She said she will be judged in three separate categories swimsuit, evening gown, and personal interview.
If she wins the competition, Mihalak will receive cash, clothing, interviews with Boston's top talent and modeling agencies, and jewelry.
In addition, the winner of the Miss Massachusetts pageant will receive an all expense trip to the National Telecast of the Miss Teen USA Pageant, where she will compete for the title of Miss Teen USA 2006.
"I'm just going to try to be myself and see where it leads me," she said.
Mihalak, who has watched similar pageants on television, said she has been told that participating in the pageant is "a good experience."
"Those girls just seem to have that kind of confidence that I don't have, and I really admire them for that," she said.
She said that her experience in athletics is likely to help her in the competition.
"Sports has made me a very competitive person," she said. "It's also taught me how to be calm during a competition, which I think will help me in the pageant."
Although there is no telling where the pageant may lead her, pursuit of a modeling career may be in her future, she said.
A definite in her future, she said, is a college education.
As far as a future profession is concerned, a number of possible careers including nursing, forensic science and education have caught her interest.
"I'm looking around," she said. "I'm not really sure what exactly I want to do yet."
Mihalak, who has two sisters one older and one younger along with an older brother, said that her family has been "very supportive," of her decision to take part in the pageant.
She said that her parents, Ronald Mihalak and Damaris Hernandez, have been helping her in gaining sponsorship from local businesses.
Thus far, Mihalak has been sponsored by the Holyoke Police Department, Sunset Motors of Easthampton, Bernies Dining Depot, Chirgwin Insurance, and King Oak Far.
Mihalak encourages anyone interested in attending the competition to order tickets by calling (781) 321-3500.