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Miss Oregon Teen USA and Klamath Falls native Vanessa Matheson can’t even explain how it felt to win First Runner-Up at the national Miss Teen USA pageant this past weekend.

“I went in for the experience: just to have fun and to make friends,” said Matheson. “It’s incredible to even say I have a friend in every single state across the country.

Matheson was the first contestant from Oregon to place in the competition in 14 years. She became involved with pageants while a student at Henley High School. This June, she finished her freshman year at the University of Oregon and plans to pursue a career in healthcare, helping people around the world.

She said her favorite part of the Miss Teen USA competition, which was held in Symphony Hall in Phoenix, Arizona, was the interview, because that’s “where I got to actually meet the judges and tell them a little bit about myself and really let them get to know me.”

Although, when she walked across the stage in her evening wear dress, “that was the pinnacle of the whole thing because that’s the ending of the pageant, and I just gave it everything I got.”

She said that she has never felt more anticipation than when she was holding hands with Miss Missouri Teen USA Sophia Dominguez to hear who had won.

“She’s a great girl, and I know that she’s going to represent the rest of us girls and the rest of the country extremely well over her year,” said Matheson. “I honestly was as happy to hear her name called as mine.”

Over the next year, Matheson will give presentations in schools around Klamath Falls about two organizations she is passionate about: Habitat For Humanity and Klamath Basin Youth Without Borders. She is also working to encourage other young women to become involved in pageants.

“I’ve watched the pageant for years and watched the girls compete onstage and especially those who make the top five,” she said. “Everything has been surreal. And to think that I was one of those people really hasn’t set in.”