For decades, women have fought an uphill battle to be taken seriously as athletes. Alaina Bergsma gets that.
The 6-foot-3 outside hitter for the Oregon volleyball team is considered one of the top offensive threats in the Pac-12, if not the entire country.
Yet, she’s also comfortable immersing herself in an entirely different world of competition — beauty pageants.
Yes. She kills on the court and the runway.
Bergsma, who hails from Chandler, Ariz., is the reigning Miss Lane County USA, a title she earned last April, unbeknownst to her UO teammates.
Eugene’s newspaper, the Register-Guard recently interviewed Bergsma about her plans:
“I feel like in a lot of ways, girls are expected to be more manly (if they play sports),” Bergsma said. “But you know, you can do both. You can be a serious athlete and also have a girlie side that likes to get dressed up and beautiful.”
On the same weekend as the The No. 13 University of Oregon volleyball team (21-9, 14-8) earned a berth to the NCAA Tournament, Bergsma was on a stage being crowned Miss Oregon. Yes – winning the whole competition!
Not surprisingly, Bergsma’s decision to embrace the spectacle of evening gowns, bathing suits and on-stage interview questions has elicited a steady diet of good-natured kidding from both the Duck players and coaches.
However, Bergsma welcomes that torment as well.
“Yeah, the team teases me a lot about it,” she said. “But I laugh it off. It’s just something I’m doing that’s completely different from volleyball, and that’s partly why I like it.
Bergsma, the Ducks’ go-to hitter this year with a team-leading 123 kills in eight matches (4.73 kills per set), was encouraged to try the pageant route by Kelsey Moore, one of her best friends from high school.
But first, the redshirt junior, who transferred to Oregon from Cali’s Loyola Marymount last year, had to check the UO volleyball schedule to make sure there would be no game conflicts.
As luck would have it, the Ducks concluded the regular season at home against Oregon State on Nov. 25, the day before the start of the Miss Oregon USA pageant.
This year’s Miss Oregon pageant was held over two days — Saturday’s preliminaries eliminated half of the 27 contestants , followed by Sunday’s three-hour finale.
Having a beauty pageant contender on the team is uncharted territory for UO volleyball coach Jim Moore, who has been coaching for 22 years.
“I’ve never had a kid involved in a beauty pageant before,” he said. “From my standpoint, it hasn’t interfered in any shape or form, other than everybody giving her a hard time about it. But (Alaina) owns it. The players will say, ‘Oh, is that your little pageant walk?’ and she says, ‘Uh huh.’ So what do you do?”
For Bergsma, you practice walking in women’s size 12 heels as much as possible, start the tanning process, make sure the makeup and hair products are all together, and practice answering a list of 300 possibly controversial interview questions.
Too bad the Miss Oregon USA pageant didn’t include a talent component, because spiking a volleyball in heels would certainly get the judges’ attention. Obviously she didn’t need that.
Congrats Alaina – on both your volleyball success and the pageant crown. Pretty Awesome!