Champaign native on Miss Illinois crown: 'There were big hugs and happy tears'

Champaign native on Miss Illinois crown: 'There were big hugs and happy tears'

MARION — Her senior year at the University of Illinois can wait.

For 21-year-old Grace Khachaturian, the next 12 months will be devoted to her role as Miss Illinois.

"I can't wait to get started," the Champaign native said Sunday morning, hours after being crowned at the Marion Cultural & Civic Center. "I'm not sure exactly what the next year is going to look like, but I'm going to try and be the best that I can be."

With '03 Miss America Erika Harold (UI grad) serving as emcee, '69 Miss America Judi Ford Nash (UI grad) in attendance and reigning Miss Illinois Abby Foster (Danville) sharing the stage, Khachaturian was among familiar East Central Illinois faces late Saturday night. Also in the crowd: her parents, Steve and Janet, and her triplet siblings, Benjamin and Christian.

"There were big hugs," she said, "and happy tears."

On Sunday, Miss Illinois officials and the Khachaturians were developing a game plan of what to do and when to do it. High on the priority list: preparing for the Miss America pageant Sept. 9 in Atlantic City.

"She worked really hard for (Miss Illinois)," Steve Khachaturian said, "and she'll work harder for (Miss America). She's excited to have an impact."

Urbana's Harold took to Twitter to congratulate Khachaturian: