Crowned With Purpose
CHS Sophomore Catelyn Combellick Talks Winning 2019 Miss Indiana Teen USA & Goals for the New Year
Standing on the stage of the Carmel Palladium, Carmel High School sophomore, Catelyn Combellick looked out into the audience, the room was vibrating with energy and cheers from family, friends and classmates. All she could see were fat-head sized signs of her face all over the Palladium. It was a surreal moment as Catelyn had just signed up for the pageant five short months prior, fully expecting that it would be a year before she would be competitive. But now, she and Jinnie Tomes were the last two candidates standing. They faced each other, held hands as they waited for the announcement that was about to change one of their lives forever.
When Jinnie’s name was called as the runner-up, it was as if time was moving in slow motion, Catelyn heard the screaming and cheering first before she fully grasped that she had just won the 2019 Miss Teen Indiana USA title.
At 15 years old, Catelyn is the first title-holder from Carmel and the youngest Miss Indiana Teen crowned since 2011. This was her first pageant attempt, a decision made just five months prior to the pageant after a bet with her mom, Dr. Denise Combellick, an Emergency Room physician at IU North. The challenge was proposed in their kitchen when Denise showed Catelyn a newspaper clipping of her as the second runner-up in the Miss Teen Missouri USA pageant when she was her age and dared her to try it and see if she could beat her placement.
Catelyn and twin sister, Cydney were already mastering very challenging and rigorous academic schedules in addition to excelling in many activities in the arts and athletics. Catelyn achieved a 5.0 grade scale with AP-fully weighted classes such as biomedical science, human body systems, Latin, chemistry, anatomy. In addition, she plays the cello in the CHS Philharmonic Orchestra as the only sophomore, rides horses competitively and the year prior added modeling into the mix with local agency Helen Wells. So, entering a beauty pageant was the furthest thing from her mind but aspiring to follow in her mom’s footsteps was a challenge she was not willing to ignore.
“When I made the decision to go for it and enter, I didn’t really know how much work was going to be involved in preparing or that some girls spent years training and preparing for these pageants,” Catelyn says.
There were two challenges facing her right out of the gate, she was terrified of speaking in a large group, and she had never walked in high heels. And with the self-deprecating humor that surely won over her judges, she laughed about explaining that.
“I had no idea how to walk in heels or in a big puffy dress, I was more comfortable in flared jeans and cowgirl boots,” she says. “So I definitely had a lot of work to do.”
Catelyn’s mother says they immediately hired a walking coach and a speaking coach. When she gave her first speech in front of a large group, Catelyn cried and wondered whether she could pull this off in a few short months. But she pursued it like any other challenge in her life — with hard work, determination and a no-matter-what attitude. Even though she was new to pageants, she knew how she wanted to use the platform.
Catelyn wants to create a movement that will inspire high school students across Indiana to reach out and include those who are marginalized, especially those with autism, and make them feel included and acknowledged. She has created the hashtag #EveryoneAlways to encourage students to be inspired to make a difference. She wants to create awareness and inclusion by inspiring students across the state to create an environment where everyone feels acknowledged and inspired to change the world.
That is largely due to spending much of her childhood hanging out with Cooper, the son of her older sister, Carissa. Cooper was only three months younger, so they basically grew up together.
“I never saw any differences, he was just Cooper and I loved him,” Catelyn says. “But as he got older, he was teased, bullied and left out socially.”
Cooper’s family recently moved to Muncie and is attending Monroe Central High School. Inspiration for this platform came when his friends decided to decorate his locker and videotaped the encounter. Cooper’s reaction brought his friends to tears seeing the joy this brought to him.
So, as Catelyn spends the next year educating people about autism, she is actively seeking to help her peers not just understand what it is but to actually celebrate and include those with autism. She is partnering with organizations like Anna’s Celebration of Life Organization, which embraced her mission and has offered to provide life-enhancing gifts to Indiana kids with autism. Catelyn stepping out of her comfort zone to become more confident has opened the door to making a difference.
Catelyn will also begin a six-month process to prepare for the Miss USA Pageant, which will involve working with personal trainers, photographers, hair stylists, clothing stylists, speech and walking coaches while trying to maintain her academic goals, performances and practice schedule, but she is determined to use this opportunity to grow personally.
“I am going to use this platform to make a difference in the world,” she says. “I am going to change the world.”