(Editor's note: This article was originially published June 12, 2017.)
WILLISTON, N.D. - Saturday was a good night for Cara Mund.
Any night where you win the Miss North Dakota crown is bound to be a good one, but this one was maybe exceptional for the amount of recognition Mund got.
Before her name was called as Miss North Dakota 2017, she was called to the front of the stage to receive awards for the top scoring talent among dance routine, the top interview score, the top swimsuit score and the top eveningwear score. That's setting aside the recognition for her community service and others.
And each time her name was called, the crowd went absolutely crazy.
"It was amazing," Mund said on Monday.
At 23, this was her fourth and final time competing in the pageant, so it was now or never. Being Miss North Dakota has been her dream since she was 6. She was Miss North Dakota's Outstanding Teen in 2010. Before that she has worn the Little Miss, Miss Pre-Teen and Miss Junior Teen crowns.
This year she was confident in her talent and confident in her interview. She was surprised when she got the high score for the swimsuit portion, though.
"I think I was more shocked about that than winning the title," she said.
Even though she'd won top score awards, and even though she was confident in how she'd done, she knew it would come down to the judge's personal preferences.
But as, one-by-one, the runners up were named, Mund was still there. It came down to Mund and Lizzie Jensen, Miss West Fargo. The pair stood center-stage, holding hands, and then Jensen was named first runner-up and Mund was named Miss North Dakota.
And the competition was tough. Any of the 19 women competing could easily have won the title, she said.
But the four years of competition made her stronger.
"The girl that was in that competition is nothing like the woman I am today," Mund said.
Mund, of Bismarck, graduated from Brown University in 2016 with a degree in Business, Entrepreneurship and Organizations and has been accepted to the law school at Notre Dame University. She's waiting to hear from other schools, as well, but she's going to defer for a year.
One of the things she was recognized for on Saturday was community service, which grew out of her platform, "A Make-A-Wish Passion with Fashion."
For the last 10 years, Mund has organized a fashion show that raises money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. It started when she was 14 and had several friends who were sick. One died on Mund's 14th birthday, and because the family requested that memorial donations go to Make-A-Wish, that sparked Mund's interest.
Another friend was in the process of getting her wish granted, but needed more money. So Mund put on a fashion show with the goal of raising $1,000.
She ended up bringing in more than $2,500. Because it was so successful, Make-A-Wish asked her to keep putting it on. Even when she was attending college in Rhode Island, she'd spend spring break in North Dakota to put on the show.
Now she's raised more than $78,000 and helped fund wishes for 23 children in North Dakota.
Her platform is going to form the basis of her tour of schools, something each Miss North Dakota undertakes. Make-A-Wish is something she's passionate about, but she knows that it might not resonate with every student. So she plans to emphasize the importance of serving others and that everyone can make a difference if they want to.
Before the school tour, though, she needs to prepare for the Miss America Pageant, which takes place in September. Her orientation is in July in Orlando as part of the Miss America's Outstanding Teen Pageant. Mund will be there to cheer on Sydney Helgeson, who won the title of Miss North Dakota's Outstanding Teen on Friday night.
Mund thinks she's going to keep most of her talent routine - she danced to Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel" - but there is a lot to be done.
"Not only do you want to look good, you want to represent your state," she said.
Once that's done, she'll be performing her duties as Miss North Dakota, from attending other state-level pageants to going to the regional pageants across the state, in addition to visiting schools and giving talks.
"I think I've just wanted it so long that I can't let a single day go by where I don't that advantage of the opportunity," she said.