Congratulations, Miss Florida: Uh wait…


Elizabeth Fechtel, center, was mistakenly crowned. Victoria Cowen, second from left, won the pageant.

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Winning a pageant title is life-changing, especially during the year of your reign.

If it’s a big crown, like a state title, it can be like a full-time gig as you prepare for the national event and make appearances.

Elizabeth Fechtel set right to work after getting her tiara on June 21, when she was named Miss Florida. She reportedly had even dropped out of the University of Florida so she could prepare for the Miss America contest in September.

But now, she won’t be going to the premier beauty contest.

Pageant officials announced Friday there had been a mistake in tabulating what must have been very close final scores.

And days after getting her crown, Fechtel was giving it back, so the Miss Florida organization could give it to Victoria Cowen, originally announced as first runner-up.

The executive director of the pageant said on Facebook that the organization had to make things right.

“Integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances. It takes having the courage to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences will be,” Mary Sullivan wrote.

Fechtel’s mother, Dixie, told the Orlando Sentinel she was told that one judge changed his mind in the last 15 seconds and tried to indicate it on his ballot.

“It was a human error,” Sullivan told the paper. “We have two auditors … but they unfortunately missed one of the markings on the ballot.”

Cowen, a student at Florida State, said on her Facebook page that she had bonded with Fechtel during their week at the competition.

“I know our friendship will remain strong,” she wrote, before going on to thank pageant officials for their honesty and integrity.

In a blog linked off her Twitter page, Fechtel said:

“There is one big idea that I would like to emphasize: I was Miss Florida for a glimpse, but more importantly, I have been Elizabeth Fechtel since day one. A title does not define me. It opens doors, but it does not dictate who I am and where I am going. I would like to think of opportunities like this as stepping stones to my future. I cannot deny that this was one of the biggest “steps” I have come across, and I had become very comfortable and excited about the growth it would bring.”

The Florida mix-up is similar to one in 2013 where the announced winner of Miss Universe Canada, Denise Garrido, gave up her crown after 24 hours when officials discovered a typographical error.

And it comes just after Miss Delaware Amanda Longacre had her Miss America dreams squashed when officials ruled her out because she is too old under pageant rules.

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