Davia Bunch of Spartanburg was crowned Miss South Carolina on Saturday in the finals of the competition held at the historic Township Auditorium in Columbia.
Bunch, who competed as Miss Spartanburg, edged out first runner-up Sydney Ford of Gaffney, who competed as Miss Greater Greer.
Becoming Miss South Carolina was emotional on several levels for the Bunch, a ballerina. She lost her mother to leukemia in January 2013, when she was just 15.
"It was an eight-year battle; it was one I grew up with," she said. "But now I can advocate for people with leukemia, lymphoma and other blood cancers. It's something that touches my heart and makes me fight harder every day."
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Bunch was a double preliminary winner for talent and swimsuit. She performed En Pointe to "Feel It Still."
Bunch received the crown from 2017 Miss South Carolina Suzi Roberts, the former Miss Columbia, and will compete for the title of Miss America in Atlantic City, N.J., on Sept. 9. The competition will be televised on ABC.
Two South Carolinians have gone on to win Miss America since Miss South Carolina was first crowned in 1937: Marian Ann McKight in 1957; and, Kimberly Clarice Aiken in 1994, the first African American Miss South Carolina.
Bunch, a University of South Carolina junior, won a $40,000 scholarship award toward her education. She will take a gap year to perform her duties as Miss South Carolina, then return to USC to complete her degree in political science.
In all, the Miss South Carolina pageant handed out more than $165,000 in scholarship money. The contestants also raised more than $169,000 for the Children's Miracle Network in South Carolina.
The pageant began Tuesday night with three days of preliminaries for the Miss Teen pageant and the Miss South Carolina Pageant. Contestants were divided into groups and over three days competed in the talent, swimsuit/evening wear, or on-stage question categories.
The winners in each category were announced each evening, and those women made up the pool of 16 finalists for the Friday Miss South Carolina teen final and Saturday's Miss South Carolina final.
This is the last year of swimsuit competition for Miss South Carolina and Miss America. Next year, the pageant will feature a fitness component with the contestants performing a set fitness routine of jumps, squats, pushups and poses.
The other finalists were Miss Clemson, Sydney Sill; Miss River City, Morgan Romono; and Miss Columbia, Alexandra Badgett.