Miss Arkansas crowned Miss America 2017 in pageant's 96th year

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Sept 11 (Reuters) - Savvy Shields, a college student from Arkansas, won the annual Miss America pageant on Sunday after impressing judges with a jazz dance routine and her answer to a question about her take on presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Shields, a native of Fayetteville and student at the University of Arkansas, was one of seven finalists given 20 seconds to answer highly topical questions on some controversial issues, such as immigration and Clinton rival, Donald Trump.

Asked what her take was on Clinton, Shields offered that "if you're trying to be leader of the free world, everything you say and do matters."

PHOTOS: Meet the new Miss America

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Miss America 2017 is Miss Arkansas
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Miss America 2017 is Miss Arkansas
Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields, 21, reacts after winning the 96th Miss America Pageant inside Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey September 11, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields, 21, reacts after winning the 96th Miss America Pageant inside Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey September 11, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Makela TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields appears onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields performs onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields appears onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 07: Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields appears onstage during Miss America 2017 - 2nd Night of Preliminary Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 7, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Television host Sage Steele (L) and Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields appear onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: (L-R) Chris Harrison, Sage Steele and Savvy Shields appear onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images for dcp)
Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields, 21, reacts after winning the 96th Miss America Pageant inside Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey September 11, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields, 21, reacts after winning the 96th Miss America Pageant inside Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey September 11, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields, 21, reacts after winning the 96th Miss America Pageant inside Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey September 11, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields, 21, reacts after winning the 96th Miss America Pageant inside Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey September 11, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Makela
(L) Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields, 21, reacts after winning the 96th Miss America Pageant inside Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey September 11, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Makela
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields performs onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields appears onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition - Show at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields (C) appears onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 07: Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields (L) and Miss Maryland Hannah Brewer attend Miss America 2017 - 2nd Night of Preliminary Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 7, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 06: Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields speaks during Miss America 2017 - 1st Night of Preliminary Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 6, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 07: Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields appears onstage during Miss America 2017 - 2nd Night of Preliminary Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 7, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images)
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She noted that the media has sensationalized the campaign so that it was "hard to tell what is truth and scandal," then added that "both these candidates have done a great job, but they also need to watch what they're doing."

Shields, who adopted "eat better, live better" as her platform for the competition, earlier performed a jazz dance to "They Just Keep Moving the Line" from the TV show "Smash."

The first runner-up was Rachel Wyatt, Miss South Carolina, who fielded a question about immigration in the United States. She was followed by contestants from New York, Washington and Mississippi.

Missouri's Erin O'Flaherty, who in June became the first openly lesbian contestant in the history of the nearly century-old pageant, failed to make the first cut of 15 selected from 52 entrants from the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Shields went into Sunday's live two-hour ABC broadcast from Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. with the advantage of having prevailed earlier in the week during preliminary judging in the talent competition.

Wearing a black strapless gown, she was crowned by the outgoing title holder, Betty Cantrell.

The pageant returned to the seaside gambling resort a few years ago after nearly a decade in Las Vegas. It was dropped by ABC in 2004 following a steep ratings decline, but returned after years on cable.

Judges, including singer Ciara, scored contestants who ranged in age from 18 to the cut-off of 24 based on talent, the live question segment, a personal interview and appearances in gowns and swimsuits.

Most of the finalists drew on music or dance for the talent portion, but some opted for pageant staples such as baton-twirling.

The winner receives a six-figure salary, expenses for the year and a $50,000 scholarship.

(Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Michael Perry)

PHOTOS: Take a peek at the night's competition

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Miss America 2016
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Miss America 2016
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss America 2017 contestants appear onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition - Show at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for dcp)
Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields, 21, reacts after winning the 96th Miss America Pageant inside Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey September 11, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields, 21, reacts after winning the 96th Miss America Pageant inside Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey September 11, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Makela
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss Oklahoma Sarah Klein appears onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition - Show at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss Iowa Kelly Koch performs onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss America 2017 Savvy Shields and the Miss America 2017 contestants appear onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Television host Sage Steele (L) and Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields appear onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss Kentucky Laura Jones appears onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition - Show at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss Tennessee Grace Burgess appears onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss Iowa Kelly Koch appears onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields appears onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss America 2017 Savvy Shields (L) and Chairman of the Board at Miss America Organization, Lynn Weidner appear onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: (L-R) Savvy Shields, Hannah Brewer, Rachel Wyatt and Caroline Carothers appear onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: (L-R) Savvy Shields, Hannah Brewer and Caroline Carothers appear onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss Texas Caroline Carothers appears onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss Oklahoma Sarah Klein appears onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Television host Chris Harrison appears onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition - Show at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss America 2017 contestants appear onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition - Show at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: (L-R) Ciara, Gabby Douglas and Laura Marano appear onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition - Show at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields performs onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss America 2017 contestants appear onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition - Show at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss Washington Alicia Cooper appears onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition - Show at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss South Carolina Rachel Wyatt appears onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition - Show at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss America 2016 Betty Cantrell performs onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss South Carolina Rachel Wyatt appears onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition - Show at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss Mississippi Laura Lee Lewis (C) appears onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss America 2017 contestants appear onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss Kentucky Laura Jones (C) appears onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss Washington Alicia Cooper (C) appears onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Television hosts Chris Harrison (L) and Sage Steele speak onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss New York Camille Sims (C) appears onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas appears onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images for dcp)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Miss Oklahoma Sarah Klein appears onstage during the 2017 Miss America Competition - Show at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 11, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for dcp)
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