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Farmington friends place in National American Miss Pageant

Maybe one day, Farmington may lay claim to being the home of Miss America. Especially if Ashley Morgan Fogarty and Miranda Larson continue to do well in area pageants.

The two friends competed In the pre-teen division of the National American Miss Pageant last month, and they both came out in the top five. Fogarty, who had taken fourth runner-up in the 2007 pageant, was named third runner-up. In her first pageant ever, Larson earned the distinction of fourth runner-up in 2008.

The pageant was held June 27-28 at the Sheraton Hotel in Bloomington. The girls competed against 81 others in the same age category -- also including 2006 Little Miss Farmington Roni Paige Petersen -- and had the opportunity to participate in specialized side contests.

Pageants are nothing new for Ashley. Her mother, Christy Jo Fogarty, was reigning Mrs. Farmington International a few years back. Ashley broke into the competition world by entering the Little Miss Farmington contests. Then one day, she got an invitation to participate in the National American Miss Pageant. Now, she's hooked.

"I think I'll do it for a few more years," she said. "It's a really fun experience for me. The adrenaline you get before a pageant, it never wears off. It just keeps coming back."

Ashley's enthusiasm was contagious -- so much so that her good friend Miranda became interested. So this year, Miranda also signed up to participate.

The girls spent several months preparing for the competition -- working on speeches, practicing walking in high heels for the casual wear modeling portion and perfecting their poise and grace.

The contestants could participate in optional contests -- Spokesmodel, Casual Wear Modeling, Talent, Actress and Photogenic categories. Ashley competed and placed in the top five of every category. For her first time out, Miranda chose to participate in the Spokesmodel competition, and was named fourth runner-up in the category.

Miranda was thrilled to place in the optional category, but was even more excited when she was named fourth runner-up overall.

"I was not expecting to be in the top five," she said.

Nor was her father, Todd Larson, expecting to come home with a crown of his own. The girls all had escorts for the competition. Todd served as Miranda's escort, but also offered to be a substitute for any young lady who did not have one. Near as he can figure, it was that offer that earned him the title of Best Escort.

"He had to go up (on stage) and put on this crown and take his trophy and wave," Miranda said. "He wears the crown everywhere now."

And that turns out to be true. Todd admits he has worn the crown to work, and to soccer practice, and out and about a few other times. He said he had more fun that weekend than he had expected to, and maybe that's part of why he wears his crown so frequently. But more likely, it's because of his daughter.

"I was so proud of her. She just nailed it. She said her speeches like it was nothing at all. That's why she was in the top five in her first pageant. The spotlights were on her and she could have cared less. She just nailed it," Todd said.

Because they were named to the top five, both Ashley and Miranda were invited to participate in the national competition, but neither will do it this year. Ashley attended nationals last year.

The girls both plan to participate in the National American Miss Pageant next year, but next time, they will compete in the junior teen division.