San Marino High School senior Libby Chang was one of just 37 finalists vying for a spot on the 7-person Tournament of Roses Royal Court, but her name was not called Monday morning at Tournament House, where the announcement was made. Libby was the only student from San Marino High School to advance to the final round.
To the surprise of nobody, Libby maintained her ever-present smile throughout the morning, where she posed along with her family and friends for keepsake photos in the iconic grounds of the former Wrigley Mansion as students, supporters and family members returned to their everyday lives.
The daughter of Jennifer and James Chang, Libby is a four-year starter on the Lady Titan tennis team, is a member of Link Crew and the school’s award-winning Chamber Choir. She hopes to play tennis and study physical therapy and business when she sets sail for college. Libby is very appreciative of the 6-week process that led her to the brink of receiving a crown.
“The process leading up to the announcement was so exciting,” she said. “I did not plan to get that far. I felt like all of these other girls are so amazing and I would not compare.”
Compare, she did, from amore than 800 who interviewed to a select group of finalists.
It was a journey she didn’t believe was happening. And for very good reason.
“The Monday after the first interview, I received an email that said I didn’t make it,” Libby explained “I was shocked and thought I would at least make it out of the first round. I received a correction email that said I made it to the second round. I later found out that every girl who made it to the second round had received the same email.”
The field was cut to 250, then 75, and then to the final 37.
“The interview became part of my Saturday routine,” Libby said with a laugh. “It was exciting. What an honor.”
She admitted to being “shocked” when she received notification that she was a finalist.
“I finally thought ‘I could actually be on the court.’” Libby said. “I started watching videos and got super excited.”
Last weekend, Libby attended a mountain retreat for San Marino High School’s Chamber Choir, returned home Sunday evening and “did a little homework.”
“The retreat was actually very good for me,” Libby said. “I was able to weigh both sides of the issue.”
She woke up early Monday and prepared for the announcement ceremony.
Libby was escorted to her place on the dais by San Marino resident Bob French, a member of the Queen & Court Committee.
“I was so excited,” she said. “It was a thrill hearing all the cheers even though they were for other girls. It was a genuine honor to represent San Marino High School. I could not stop smiling. I am not one who is always smiling, but in that moment, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.”
Libby never heard the call for “340,” her assigned number. But that beautiful smile remained affixed throughout the proceedings.
“It didn’t sink in until much later,” she said a day-and-a-half after the announcement. “I was a little bummed, but my grandmother and auntie were super-supportive. On the drive home, they were saying how proud they were of me and how the role of Rose Princess would not define me.”
Reality began to set in when she returned to school.
“I was sitting I class and I thought, ‘Wow, I didn’t make it,” she said, with another chuckle. “I slowly gained a better perspective and was comforted by friends and, later at practice, by the tennis team. It was a cool moment because I was doing things I couldn’t have done if my name was called.”
Full retrospect has provided further wisdom.
“It was such a cool experience,” Libby said. “I got to see an entirely different side of the process. I gained a perspective with my friends. It was such a fun month and I wanted to do this since I was young. It’s cool to say I was a finalist and I have grown in my ability to handle my nerves, speak and answer questions. I am not disappointed at all. It was a blessing to be able to go through this.”