In just a few weeks, Sophie Keeler will be a sophomore at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, but she will also be holding another title — Miss Hastings 2020.

The Chaska native, pre-nursing student won the crown of Miss Hastings 2020 two weeks ago to kick off Rivertown Days. She competed against two other young women, Jasmin Kotek and Rachel Eron.

Carrying the Miss Hastings title makes Keeler a contestant for the Miss Minnesota competition next summer. But it won’t be Keeler’s first time vying for the Miss Minnesota crown. Last year, Keeler served as Miss Heartland 2019 and competed for the state title this June.

“Miss Heartland was what we call a sweeps title,” Keeler explained. “It’s the last competition of the season ... . That title exists from when I’m crowned until the Miss Minnesota competition in June. That is why I was able to compete in Miss Hastings.”

Different from a closed competitions, which limit contestants to living within a certain area, the sweeps competition is open to any Minnesota resident within the state organization’s guidelines. They also can give out multiple titles at one competition.

Before entering the competition for Miss Hastings, Keeler had never stepped foot in the city before. She learned about the opportunity through the program’s president and executive director, Janelle Behny when they met after Miss Minnesota.

“Coming to Hastings and having been involved with this community now for a little bit has been so interesting and eye opening to what a great community it is. It’s almost a hidden gem, I’d like to say because it has so much to offer,” Keeler said.

With another year of service on the way, Keeler is looking forward to being able to expand the work she does through her social impact initiative— Right Type to Save a Life: Building blood donation awareness.

At Miss America Organization competitions, each contestant is required to provide a social impact statement that defines an issue that they are passionate about and helps them form a platform for their year of service. As a future nursing student, Keeler felt that blood donation awareness was the perfect choice.

With limited time while serving her last title, Keeler wasn’t able to meet with community groups and leaders as she wished. Now that she will have almost a full year of serving the Hastings community before competing for the state title, Keeler has bigger plans in sight.

“I want to organize a blood drive here in Hastings, and I really want to work alongside the Red Cross here in Minnesota,” Keeler said. “I’ve gotten to know some people through another event I did so I know some of their coordinators. By building on those relationships, I think I will be able to do some fun things in the future.”