Miss Ohio Sarah Clapper poses with Miss America 2017, Savvy Shields, at the 97th Miss America crown on Sept. 10 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Credit: Courtesy of Bruce Vartan Boyajian

Ohio State alumna and Miss Ohio 2017 Sarah Clapper competed alongside 50 other state titleholders for the 97th Miss America crown on Sept. 10 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Clapper graduated with an architecture degree in 2016, and in addition to serving as Miss Ohio, she also works for Columbus architecture firm Berardi+Partners.

Clapper has competed in a number of different qualifying local pageants for Miss Ohio since her freshman year at Ohio State in 2012. This year, she accomplished her lifelong goal when she competed as Miss Clayland and won the title of Miss Ohio on June 17.

Before gracing the stage Sunday night in hopes of being crowned Miss America, Clapper and her fellow contestants competed in preliminary rounds the week before the final. From the 51 contestants in the preliminary rounds, 15 are chosen to compete on the final night. Clapper was not chosen to compete in the top 15 but expressed her gratitude just to be there.

“I remember sitting and watching the [top-15] competition take place and having a piece inside knowing that it wasn’t my time to be Miss America and that God has plans for me as Miss Ohio … that was something that I carried with me throughout my entire experience at Miss America,” Clapper said. “If it’s meant to be, it will be, and if it’s not I still have one of the best jobs waiting for me at home [as Miss Ohio].”

Clapper is not the only Ohio State alumna that has been a part of the competition for the crown. In the past 10 years, three Ohio State alumnae have competed as Miss Ohio at Miss America — Miss Ohio 2007, Roberta Camp Albert and Miss Ohio 2014, Mackenzie Bart.

“Ohio State is such a large organization, so I was very glad to represent them as Miss Ohio, because you then have so many supporters behind your back,” Bart said. “Everyone loves the Ohio State name, and it just opens the door for many opportunities.”

Originally from Louisville, Ohio, Clapper was a competitive gymnast growing up, which led to the development of her platform, “Athletics Today, a lifetime of tomorrows.”

After a spinal injury halted her gymnastics career, the goal of Clapper’s platform is to instill emotional resiliency in athletes, and assist them in developing positive habits.

“I struggled with figuring out who I was outside ‘the gymnast,’  and unfortunately a lot of athletes transition out of their athletic career and they get lost … everything that described who I was up until that point have been based off my gymnastics,” she said.

Because of her intention to pursue a master’s degree in business administration with a focus in marketing, Clapper qualified for the Women in Business scholarship through the Miss America Organization, and was later announced as one of two winners of the $5,000 scholarship.

“Receiving the Women in Business award was probably the most fulfilling part (of this experience)…the minute I received the award knowing I was debt free from college,” she said. “Receiving that at Miss America, the pinnacle of what you strive for, and what I was working towards for five years, was the cherry on top.”