WATERLOO -- There's little doubt Anesa Kajtazovic is a standout. At 20, her achievements are mind-boggling.

She came to Waterloo a decade ago from Bosnia speaking very little English, and went on to graduate this spring with a double major from the University of Northern Iowa in three years.

On Saturday, Kajtazovic stood out for judges at the Iowa State Fair Pageant and was crowned third runner-up.

"I was really surprised. I don't even know how I got to the front. I didn't even wave at my parents," she said, laughing.

Kajtazovic, the daughter of Hazim and Hadzira Kajtazovic, spent last week in Des Moines attending workshops and events with the other 101 contestants hailing from across the state.

"We were very busy the whole time. I didn't get a lot of sleep," she said. "But it was so much fun. I met so many great girls from all over Iowa."

With her new title comes a $300 scholarship and a $100 U.S. Savings Bond. Since she has already graduated from college, Kajtazovic plans to put the money in a savings account, she said.

Contestants were judged on personality, attitude, awareness, leadership, citizenship, overall appearance, charm and poise. Abby Salton of Clay County was crowned Iowa State Fair Queen. First runner-up was Holly Illingworth of Indianola, and second runner-up was Krissy Steffen, 20, of Winthrop in Buchanan County. Steffen is the daughter of Randy and Kathy Steffen. She won a $500 scholarship and a $200 U.S. Savings Bond.

"I was not expecting to win anything," Kajtazovic said.

Kajtazovic has no immediate plans to participate in another pageant, but isn't ruling anything out.

"I always get myself into something," she said.

Contact Meta Hemenway-Forbes at (319) 291-1483 or meta.hemenway-forbes@wcfcourier.com.

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