Nevada creates controversy for teen pageant

They crowned the wrong teen queen. Now two Nevada girls may be headed to Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Pageant in Orlando, Fla.

After parents of other contestants challenged the results and pushed for an audit, national pageant officials agreed there were “scoring irregularities” in the June 1 state competition that crowned 15-year-old Amy Smith of Henderson as Miss Nevada’s Outstanding Teen.

Contestants including Smith begin gathering in Orlando today for the contest that culminates Aug. 2.

A news release attributed to Donna Bozarth, chair­woman of the pageant’s national board, said the “unfortunate situation” has resulted in the decision that “there could be two winners,” and that “each of them individually would receive the recognition and awards for being Miss Nevada’s Outstanding Teen and would compete separately in the national competition in Orlando.”

However, the rightful winner — said to be Haleyann Hart of Henderson — was not named in the release, and only Smith and her family had agreed to the proposal Thursday.

“An agreement has not yet been reached with the other young lady, but we are hopeful that a resolution can be reached,” the statement continued.

Hart’s mother, Marcia Cope-Hart, said Thursday she could not comment on the situation.

Amy’s father, Rick Smith, was traveling to Orlando on Thursday but emailed a statement to the Review-Journal. “Amy was crowned Miss Nevada’s Outstanding Teen on June 1. Since that time she has continued uninterrupted in that capacity and will represent the state in the national (pageant).”

Amy Hacker, state executive director of the Miss Nevada Organization, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The state competition already was newsworthy for the rarity of having two sisters win twin titles. Ellie Smith, a previous Miss Nevada Outstanding Teen, was crowned Miss Nevada in the competition for ages 17 through 24 and will go on to compete in the Miss America pageant.

The sisters live in Henderson but went to Elko to compete in a less-crowded preliminary, the Miss Northeast Nevada Contest.

When Amy Smith also won the state finals competition held at the Las Vegas Academy, parents and other pageant officials challenged the results based on several factors. Primarily, Hart was the announced winner of the teen talent award, so the proportionate percentage of scoring for that award should automatically have placed her among the five top finalists.

Instead, the five finalists excluded Hart and included three 13-year-old first-year contestants, which parents cited as another red flag. After the contest, it was determined that Hart won the interview portion of the competition as well.

In a July 17 letter obtained by the Review-Journal, Bozarth told parents: “I have spoken to most of you in the past 2 days with the news that there was a scoring error due to an incorrect ballot being used in the Scholastic Achievement portion of the competition. When our national auditor in Orlando reviewed the ballots for a re-audit of the scores, he immediately noticed the error because the scores were so inflated.

“Our auditor, using the original ballots, re-entered the Private Interview, Lifestyle and Fitness in Sportswear, Talent, and Evening Wear &Onstage Question on to the tally sheet. He then entered the correct Scholastic Achievement Scores, which resulted in a different top 5.”

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.