Miss Teen USA has officially removed the swimsuit portion of its pageant and replaced it with an athletic wear competition.
The new approach, first reported by USA Today
, aims to break away from previous traditions in hopes of further promoting female empowerment and physical fitness, especially for younger contestants between the ages of 15 and 19.
"This decision reflects an important cultural shift we're all celebrating that empowers women who lead active, purposeful lives and encourage those in their communities to do the same," Miss Universe president Paula Shugart wrote in a memo addressed to the pageant's state directors. "Our hope is that this decision will help all of Miss Teen USA's fans recognize these young women for the strong, inspiring individuals they are."
"We're excited about the changes we’ve made thus far," Shugart continued. "And, are committed to continuing to evolve in ways that celebrate women’s strength, confidence and beauty for years to come."
Reigning Miss Teen USA, Katherine Haik, applauded the pageant's decision. "This new direction for Miss Teen USA is a great way to celebrate the active lives that so many young women lead and set a strong example for our peers," she said in a statement.
Haik, who says she's been an athlete most of her life as a member of a softball team and a competitive dance team, has been sharing her latest workouts on social media.
"Checked another thing off my list.... @soulcycle class ✔️#NewYork," she wrote on Instagram on Monday.
Over the weekend, she also gave fans a peek into her first yoga class. "I took my first yoga class this week and I have been loving it ever since!" she shared.
The 2016 Miss Teen USA pageant will be held in Las Vegas on July 30.