Miss Virginia Emili McPhail, 22, won the preliminary onstage question scholarship of $1,000 and Miss Louisiana Holli’ Conway, 24, earned the $2,000 preliminary talent scholarship.
McPhail’s win came after she answered a question about what she would advise the NFL with regard to kneeling during the national anthem.
“Kneeling during the national anthem is absolutely a right that you have to stand up for what you believe in, and to make the right decision that’s right for you,” McPhail said. “It’s very important that we also have to take into consideration that it is not about kneeling: It is absolutely about police brutality.”
Miss Louisiana Conway’s win came after opening the talent portion Thursday night with a vocal performance of “I Believe” by Fantasia.
Conway cited the lyrics of the song she sang and said it ties into her platform: “I believe in the impossible,” “I strive to be the very best.” Conway said her voice was tired earlier in the day. She got frustrated during rehearsal and had trouble encouraging herself. But she said her Miss America candidate “sisters” helped to pick her back up.
The first day of preliminaries Wednesday with host Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri brought preliminary wins for Miss Wisconsin Tianna Vanderhei, 25, and Miss Florida Taylor Tyson, 23, winning the onstage question and talent preliminary scholarships, respectively.
The Miss America preliminary competitions will continue 7 p.m. Friday at Boardwalk Hall.