IHS senior to compete for crown

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 13, 2003

Ironton High School senior Ashley Neal has a chance to become America's Homecoming Queen.

Being honored as Ironton's homecoming queen was one thing, but competing against girls from across Ohio in the state finals of this 23rd annual pageant has Neal both nervous and excited.

"I am scared that I will fall or something," she joked. "I am most nervous about the questions the judges will ask me."

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Neal, the daughter of Rick and Angie Neal, was invited last week to compete in the event in Columbus in April. If she wins, she will represent Ohio in the national finals.

"I just filled the application out," she said. "I did not think I would actually be invited."

She said she was both embarrassed and surprised just to be named as

Ironton's queen and is even more nervous about going to Columbus.

"Principal Nance was not supposed to tell anyone," she said. "He wanted to announce it to the school, but I would not let him."

Neal, on the honor roll this semester with a 3.3 GPA, is a member of the science club, track and cross-country teams. She has never entered any other pageants and said she is definitely more comfortable competing in athletics.

Needless to say, her parents are extremely proud.

"We were really excited when we found out she was invited," Angie Neal said. "I think she has a great chance of winning."

Peggy Lee Hester, executive director of America's Homecoming Queen pageant, said the organization is different than a traditional beauty pageant because it focuses more on the interviews and communication with the judges.

The participants are chosen based on their applications and leadership, character and community involvement, she said.

"We promote education and community service," she said. "It is for real people, no one that is fake. We want the girls to just be themselves."

Hester said they normally invite 10 percent of the applicants from each state and that normally 50 or 60 girls compete in Ohio. At this time, she did not know if any other students from Lawrence County were invited.

Many of these girls build lasting friendships that they carry on into their college careers, she said.

"Like I tell the girls, 'They are all winners'," she said. "They all go away friends."

Neal's family will pay the $400 entry fee for the pageant but sponsors are allowed and will be recognized in the program booklet.

Anyone wishing to help sponsor her entry fee, contact Principal Dean Nance at Ironton High School.