Rachel LaBatt, a 2013 Leonardtown High School graduate, is an official state finalist for the Miss Maryland USA Pageant this weekend at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center.

She ran track and cross country throughout high school, going undefeated in Southern Maryland Athletic Conference varsity cross country meets from 2009-2013.

The pageant consists of an evening gown, swimsuit and interview. LaBatt said her interview took place over zoom on July 17, and that she “cannot wait to meet the five judges in person.”

There are 104 women competing for the title of Miss Maryland USA and only one will go on to compete at the prestigious Miss USA Pageant. Southern Maryland News had a chance to do a Q&A with LaBatt before the competition.

Southern Maryland News: When did you get into pageants, and how long have you been competing in them?

LaBatt: March of 2020, I was working with the nonprofit Southern Maryland Loves You to design a [personal protective equipment] gown out of sewing a plastic table cloth together that we could buy at the dollar store. We had an idea to get Miss Maryland USA to put on a runway show for us with our gowns to raise awareness of the work we were doing. That’s when I thought, who is Miss Maryland USA? What is pageantry about? Then I discovered that Miss Maryland USA does not require any pageant experience. Just a young lady that is confidently beautiful with a plan to change the world. I applied in January, had an interview over the phone in February and was accepted the next day. This is my first ever pageant.

SMN: What drew you to pageants?

LaBatt: The chance to represent Southern Maryland itself, the work of the nonprofit Southern Maryland Loves you, the Optimist Club and to be a role model for children everywhere.

SMN: What is the most challenging part of pageants?

LaBatt: Definitely walking in heels! I wear steel toed shoes at work when I get on the aircraft, heels are not welcomed on our aircraft!

SMN: What is the most fun part of pageants?

LaBatt: Sharing the message of pageantry to those around me. You are loved, you are important and you are worthy.

SMN: What do you do for a living?

LaBatt: I am a flight test engineer for the P-8A Poseidon at Naval Air Station Patuxent River.

SMN: What drew you to that career field?

LaBatt: I was born and raised in Hollywood, surrounded by Naval aviation. Flying was always a passion of mine. I knew I wanted to be an electrical engineer that works on naval aircraft since I was in eighth grade.

SMN: What is a goal you have for your career?

LaBatt: I would love to graduate from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.

SMN: What will you do if you win Miss Maryland USA?

LaBatt: If I win Miss Maryland USA, I will go onto the nationally televised Miss USA. It would be an honor to bring Southern Maryland to the Miss USA pageant. It is my passion to make engineering a beautiful concept to children everywhere.

SMN: What is a nonprofit that is dear to your heart?

LaBatt: Southern Maryland Loves You, which was founded for COVID-19 relief. We have four FDA approved heat sanitization units across Southern Maryland Health Facilities available to a variety of frontline workers. The Lexington Park Optimist Club is also near and dear to my heart as they always help the first line defenders any chance they get.

SMN: Is there someone you’d like to give a shout out to?

LaBatt: The headshots were taken By John Herzog, with hair and makeup by Courtney Smits. Also, a huge thank you to my friends and family for all the behind-the-scenes help to prepare me for the stage on July 24. Thank you to all my local sponsors for supporting me on this journey and believing in me.