I just submitted the first chapter of my WIP to a contest, something I haven't felt brave enough to do in five years. Back then, the most helpful comments came from a judge who was encouraging. She said she could hear my voice, said my many technical flaws could be corrected.
Since then I've studied the craft of writing. I've presented my WIP to a critique loop and to a solo CP. I've judged contests, and read entries that run the gamut of storytelling skill.
I know contests are not the be-all and end-all of life. My entry may not resonate with one or more of the judges. But I'm hoping I'll score better than five years ago.