I loved what I did before I was Miss Florida. I loved being a student at the University of Florida. I loved the service work that I was doing there, and the work I was doing as Miss University of Florida. And I'm happy to go back to that position. —Elizabeth Fechtel
ORLANDO, Fla. — A day after a vote tabulation error took away her Miss Florida crown, the former pageant winner says she's devastated about losing the title, but believes officials did the right thing.
Elizabeth Fechtel, who won the crown last week before being reduced to runner-up on Friday, told The Associated Press on Saturday that she believes that "it's fair that they go back and initially play by the rules."
Miss Florida Executive Director Mary Sullivan said Friday that the error was noticed during a routine recount and that a mark on one judge's ballot was inadvertently overlooked. The ballots were retabulated by an independent auditor, and the contestants were notified of the correct results.
The woman who'd come in second — Victoria Cowen — was named the new Miss Florida.
The change came after the Miss Delaware winner was disqualified for being too old.
The initial winner in that pageant, 24-year-old Amanda Longacre, was crowned June 14 in Delaware, but lost the crown Wednesday. Miss America pageant rules require contestants to be between 17 and 24, and Longacre will turn 25 on Oct. 22, before year's end.
Fechtel said she realizes that the rules couldn't be overlooked in her case, or in the instance of Longacre.
"I'm the one who's receiving the bad end of the stick, but I still agree with what they did," Fechtel said. "They couldn't make an exception for Miss Delaware, therefore they couldn't make an exception for me, and they won't do the same for any other state. And I think it's fair that they go back and initially play by the rules."
She said she is ready to move past it all.
"I loved what I did before I was Miss Florida," she said. "I loved being a student at the University of Florida. I loved the service work that I was doing there, and the work I was doing as Miss University of Florida. And I'm happy to go back to that position."
AP Radio reporter Shelley Adler in Washington contributed to this report.