Last month Emily Ferrell, 26, won the swimsuit award after receiving the highest score at the Miss Minnesota USA Pageant. The 2009 Cloquet graduate wore a two-piece for the swimsuit competition, which was her favorite part of the pageant.

"I was happy I had the confidence to go out in front of people in a swimsuit and high heels," Ferrell said.

The pageant took place Nov. 25-26 at the Ames Center in Burnsville, Minn. Winners go on to compete for Miss USA.

"I wanted to challenge myself," Ferrell said. "You never know until you try."

Carey Ferrell, Emily's dad, thought it was neat as a parent to watch his daughter being announced on stage.

"It takes a lot of courage and confidence to be on that stage in front of a lot of people and bright lights," Carey Farrell said. "Winning an award at the state level of competition is really cool and I couldn't be prouder of Emily." He added that he still would have been just as proud if she hadn't won anything, because just participating says a lot about her.

"Of course having the highest score in the swimsuit competition means I get some ribbing on how my daughter looks in a swimsuit," Carey said. "The only response I can say is Emily keeps in great shape being a dance instructor."

While Ferrell has not decided if she will compete again before she ages out of the program at 28, she urges anyone interested in competing to give it a try.

Ferrell began dance lessons at the tender age of 3 and continues to this day.

She danced at the Capitol One Bowl in 2010 in Florida. The summer of 2016, Ferrell was selected as one of the dancers to represent Minnesota for the Dance Across the USA project, which honors national parks. She is heading to Florida this weekend for the book launch for that project.

Ferrell now lives in Grand Rapids where she owns a dance studio and teaches dance.