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October 2, 2014

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New Miss Nevada winners plan for national pageant as Miss America chief rankles Vegas

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Diana Sweeney, left, is Miss Nevada 2013 and Katarina Clark is Miss Nevada Outstanding Teen.

Miss Nevada winner 2013

Diana Sweeney, left, is Miss Nevada 2013 and Katarina Clark is Miss Nevada Outstanding Teen. Launch slideshow »

The newly crowned Nevada representatives going onto the Miss America pageants have less than 90 days to prepare for the national spotlight. Two evenings of glamour and excitement this past weekend at the Texas Station Casino concluded with two Northern Nevada teens being crowned winners -- and Las Vegas contestants finishing as runners-up.

It proved third time lucky for 19-year-old Diana Sweeney, who represented Carson City to win the Miss Nevada 2013 title. Katarina Clark, a 15-year-old Reno resident, won the Miss Nevada Outstanding Teen title and tiara. Diana will now compete in the Sept. 15 Miss America pageant live on ABC-TV from Atlantic City. Katarina will compete in Miss America’s Outstanding Teen competition in Orlando, Florida.

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Pageant contestants line up during the Miss Nevada and Miss Nevada Outstanding Teen contest on Saturday, June 15, 2013. Clockwise from top left are Randi Sundquist, Ellie Smith, Miss Nevada Outstanding Teen Katarina Clark and Miss Nevada Diana Sweeney.

The Miss America pageant has returned to Atlantic City after a seven-year run here at Planet Hollywood on the Strip.

Diana won an $8,000 scholarship and an additional $500 for raising the most money for the Miss America charity, Children's Miracle Network. Her four runners-up divided another $3,300 in scholarship funding.

Katarina won a $2,500 scholarship and earned an additional $200 for winning overall talent. Her four runners-up divided another $2800 in funding.

“I feel amazing right now,” Diana said. “I honestly didn’t know if I was going to win, so I’m ecstatic. I’m looking forward to every single experience and opportunity that is going to come my way. I’m looking forward to traveling the state and being an ambassador.”

For the next 12 months, Diana will travel Nevada educating community groups and schools on her service platform, “Sexual Assault –- No Means No.” Katarina will also meet with people around the state, speaking on her anti-bullying based platform “SHINE –- Saving Hearts by Inspiring, Noticing and Encouraging.”

“I have so many emotions going on right now,” Katarina said. “I’m excited, I’m nervous but I’m ready. I can’t wait to experience everything that comes with being Miss Nevada’s Outstanding Teen.”

I talked with Diana minutes after the crowning: “I feel on top of the world. You honestly never know what the judges are looking for. I came in, as confident as I could. I was very well prepared, but honestly it was all in the judge’s hands. There’s nothing I could do besides my best. I really, really did want to win this. I competed once in the teen contest but had tried for three years in this one.”

Diana is working on a double major in math and education at UNR. “ I want to be a math professor -- people might not think of blonde-haired pageant winners as professors, but I’d like to break that stereotype.”

She continued: “I also work really close (through her platform) with the Children's Miracle Network. When I was 14 I was sexually assaulted by an acquaintance. I’ve turned it now into a positive, though. Tragedy into triumph.

“Now I have to plan for Miss America. I have been watching the other state winners. I know what I’m up against -- there’s some amazing girls this year. I know it will be an incredible experience. As Miss Nevada, I know I will change from being a teenage girl in this coming year to a woman. I never won a pageant before -- this is my first."

An only child, Diana has raised more than $5,000 for Children's Miracle Network while competing in the pageants.

Alyssa D’Agostino of Las Vegas placed second runner-up, and the on-finalist interview award went to Ashley Tarchione, of Henderson. The Outstanding Teen court was completed with first runner-up Baylee Bernstein and second runner-up Haley Passione, both of Henderson.

Meantime, Miss America chief Sam Haskell raised eyebrows at similar preliminary state pageants on the East Coast, saying that “everything is not bigger and better in Las Vegas." Explaining why the traded, "the glitz of the Strip for the smaller casino town” he said the September pageant back in Atlantic City will be “super-sized." He pointed out that Planet Hollywood only had 7,000 seats, whereas he’s predicting a sell-out of more than 10,000 at the Boardwalk Hall.

His television production team began work this weekend on plans for the broadcast.

Sam further rankled Vegas tourism officials who had bankrolled the pageant’s stay here for seven years, stating that the return to Atlantic City from Las Vegas had more to do with tradition and appreciation: “Things that couldn’t be duplicated in Las Vegas. There were 100 other things going in Vegas. We were just one thing. It all feels much more special here, like a warm blanket being wrapped around us. It was colder in Vegas. There was no blanket. I know it sounds odd, but what we can have in Atlantic City is really something we couldn’t have in Las Vegas-there’s no place like home”.

With Donald Trump’s rival Miss USA and Miss Universe pageant moves to Moscow and Miami -- as we reported Monday -- and the return of Miss America to the Jersey, shore Vegas is now without a televised beauty pageant for the first time since 2005.

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