The recently crowned Miss South Carolina, Brooke Mosteller of Mount Pleasant, made her mark as a scholar and athlete before she thought about competing in beauty pageants.

She sees her title as an opportunity to promote her mission of getting more students into college. She started a program to help students fill out college applications that’s been endorsed by the S.C. Commission on Higher Education.

Mosteller comes from a family of high achievers, and she’s been carrying on the tradition in her own way. She was 2008 salutatorian at Wando High School. Her tennis team won the state championship. She branched into track star at Furman University and set school and state records. She graduated from Furman in 2012 and is a law student at the University of South Carolina. She is interested in a career prosecuting child abusers. She turned 24 Friday.

Her mother is Cyndi Campsen Mosteller, former chairwoman of the Charleston County Republican Party.

Her father, Rick Mosteller, owns and operates Fort Sumter Tours and SpiritLine Cruises.

Her uncle, Cyndi’s brother, is state Sen. Chip Campsen, also a conservative Republican.

Defining moment

Cyndi Mosteller pointed out an incident that she says pretty much sums up her daughter.

It was April 2010 at the Southern Conference Women’s Track and Field Championship. Brooke had just entered her first track meet ever two weeks earlier and set a Furman record in a 5,000 meter race. Brooke later said she wasn’t even wearing the right kind of shoes for that first race. Her strategy was to keep up with the lead runner until near the end, then see what she had left near the finish line.

She had the same strategy at the state championship at Appalachian State in Boone, N.C., but there were a lot more runners on the track. On the fourth lap, she ran into a runner from Davidson and fell down.

Brooke said that fall was probably the most embarrassing moment of her life. Then a quote from Teddy Roosevelt hit her, the one that says don’t be with “those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” She got back up and won the race.

“That’s the kind of determination she has,” Cyndi said.

Pageant life

Brooke still runs regularly, although she’s holding back for a little softer look for the Miss America pageant in September.

She’s spending almost full time preparing for the national competition, which will be nationally televised from Atlantic City, N.J.

She’s living in an apartment near Miss South Carolina headquarters in Hartsville, working daily with fitness trainers and a voice coach, doing mock interviews, watching the news to be ready to answer questions about current events.

A business manager coordinates her schedule, which also includes Miss America appearances that have already started since she was crowned July 13.

“It is a full-time job,” manager Sharon Copes said.

The pageant looks at the whole person, including walking around the stage in a two-piece swimsuit while everybody judges you. “It’s confidence and health and lifestyle,” she said. “Did she work out, did she put the time in? How has she been eating? And how confident is she? Is she having fun? How else are you going to know how fit the girl is unless you see if she’s got a six-pack or not?”

She’s working on her walk. “I have that little athletic limp that I do, and that’s what we’re trying to get rid of, or smooth out,” she says with a laugh.

Finding her mission

Brooke comes from a close family and was a top student at one of the state’s best high schools. Yet she said she found filling out college applications incredibly difficult and frustrating. That’s what prompted her to start College Application Day in 2009. Last fall 152 high schools participated, and 32,000 seniors filled out applications.

“What I say is education is a transcendent tool for empowerment, because your educational attainment affects so many other aspects of your life,” she said. “That’s what I really want for everyone, is to attain the best that they can, and education is really at the heart of that.”

The S.C. Legislature passed a resolution last summer affirming that the state has an economic interest in getting more students to go to college and recognizing the importance of her work. The bill was sponsored by Campsen.

She says it’s possible she might run for state office someday, although it’s not a goal. “There are no women in the state Senate, which is ridiculous,” she said. “I wouldn’t put that as a goal, because I think the goal should be how can you serve best, or how can you serve your passions best or use your gifts to the best of your abilities?”

She visualizes herself as a prosecutor. “I want to work in crimes against children, child molestation, child-abuse crimes,” she said.

She will take a year off from law school during her reign as Miss South Carolina. She will return to school with a $24,000 scholarship from winning the pageant.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553 or twitter.com/dmunday.