I agree with everything @Cole_Nagata and @Chibs_from_931 have said above, but I will add my story being an Award Winner as well.
First off, selling why you exemplify FIRST’s core values and how you show passion for STEM and FIRST in your community, on your team, and your future plans. The FIRST core values are a big part of the process, so to any future nominee, make sure you know each one and how you exemplify it. I’d say those are some of the big things that I demonstrated in my interview that made the judges go “Wow”. Really connect with the judges to make them remember you. I made a book (like a Chairman’s/EI book) about my impact on my team and community, with my future plans and how FIRST is helping me achieve those plans. I made 4 books, 2 to give to each of the judges, one for me to reference in the interview if need be, and then a spare in case something happened to one of them. I ended up giving that book to a friend who won in 2017 because he liked it so much.
My team is from Western Pennsylvania and there’s only 1 regional in my state. We go to a competition in Ohio and the PA competition. I chose PA because it was my home state, and I have been doing outreach with my team that has helped support STEM growth in PA. It was nice that 20 less teams were signed up for this Pennsylvania competition than the Ohio one, but as mentioned before in this thread, the number of Dean’s List nominees doesn’t necessarily have to line up with the number of teams. I felt like I had a better chance at the Pittsburgh PA competition because of what I’ve done for PA, more than the number of nominees, and I asked my mentors to choose that competition for me to go for the award at. So wherever the nominee feels more comfortable going to should be the competition chosen. So there is no definitive right or wrong regional as @Chibs_from_931 said.
My team, to my knowledge, has only ever nominated 3 people in 5 years. 2 in 2017, where we had a finalist, and then me. We don’t just nominate two best people because there are two spots, some teams may and that’s up to the team.
On the sophomore thing - I’ll back up what @JQ_Kocik said. In my opinion it’s tough to win as a sophomore because most nominees will be juniors, so that’s 12 additional months of being a leader, doing outreach, getting involved, etc. Not saying it’s impossible, but just that additional year of being a leader in FIRST can be huge.
Getting the nomination is still a really big accomplishment! It shows you’re doing something right! Keep doing the great things you’re doing and always be open to new opportunities to make a difference.
EDIT: I’m always happy to help out any future nominees! Don’t hesistate to ask me for help when it gets to preparation for next year.