Literally, Beth Tillery is a down-to-Earth girl.

Beth Tillery

As in “Miss Kansas Earth,” her title as she vies for the crown in the 20th Miss Earth Pageant in Las Vegas, Nev., Aug. 2-9.

Now, with her finals behind her and her graduation from Kansas State University a unique experience, she can focus on the pageant — her first such competition.

“I found the pageant on Instagram and applied online,” she said. “They decided I was going to be Miss Kansas.”

En route to the finals in Sin City, she said, contestants have been interviewed via social media; one such event was on Facebook earlier this month, with Tillery and the other competitors fielding questions from an online audience.

“Judges go through our social media,” she said. “Also, our ability to connect with audience was a preliminary competition thing — it’ll all add up to one score. I think I did OK; I was so nervous. I had done another one a week before; I was sitting there live and questions popped up on my screen.”

The daughter of former Rio Rancho and Cleveland high schools teacher and coach Jim Tillery, Beth spent one year at Cleveland High, graduating in May 2015.

“It was a challenge; I knew some people from Dad coaching,” she said.

She spent much of her younger years commuting between Kansas, where her brother, mother and stepfather reside, and New Mexico, where her father lived — until he moved a few years ago to Creede, Colo.

“I’d spend summer and other breaks back with my dad and everyone,” she said.

She’s an ambitious 23-year-old, to be sure: Her KSU degrees are in parks management and conservation, and natural resources and environmental sciences.

“I want to travel to world, working at different national parks — experience them and write about them on my blog,” she said.

As a youngster, she said, she’d wanted to be a nurse.

“My younger brother had cystic fibrosis,” she said. “Later, I had a greater appreciation for the outdoors.”

Much of that came from the family’s vacationing every summer in southern Colorado, with time for fishing and hiking.

Her favorite national park, she said, is Olympic National Park in Washington. The only national park she’s been lost in is Glacier National Park in Montana.

How did that happen, she was asked.

“We got off a trail to go fishing in the river; when we were done, we couldn’t find the trail — the woods were so thick,” she said, adding a few friends were with her. “We found a field, and an off-the-grid cabin. We were freaked out, but we eventually found the trail before the sun set.”

Although her father earned a college scholarship from his bowling abilities, and has won quite a few tournament titles since then, Beth isn’t an accomplished kegler.

“I would always bowl with the family and my brother, but I was never a bowler,” she said.

She had more success in Kansas as a Soapbox Derby racer: “I started when I was 7, did it till I moved to New Mexico, when I aged out of the division.”

She said she plans to teach kids about that sport when she finds time. She’ll also find time to get a master’s degree, to help her find a national parks position, although it depends on how far she goes as Miss Kansas Earth.