An Ohio teenager who won a gold medal in a statewide masonry competition — and the first girl to win the top prize — found out on Facebook that she won’t be allowed to compete at a national leadership and skills conference.
Shania Clifford saw a social media post by the boy who won third prize at the SkillsUSA Ohio masonry competition announcing that he would be competing next week at the national level, reported the Columbus Dispatch.
The superintendent for Scioto County Career Technical Center, where Clifford just completed her junior year, asked officials with SkillsUSA for an explanation but was given only a vague response.
“The scores were inappropriately put in,” an official told the superintendent.
The 17-year-old Clifford won the masonry competition in late April by 72 points — a substantial difference — and her instructor said Clifford’s column was outstanding.
“She had the best plumb there,” said instructor Larry Moore, referring to the straightness of the column’s vertical edges. “Two or three corners were perfect.”
A spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Education, which sponsored the competition, said scores were incorrectly entered after the judges filled out their paperwork and inaccurately named Clifford the winner.
She was downgraded to third place, and the boy who originally placed third was named the winner.
The spokeswoman said no errors were made on the judges’ scoring sheets — and Clifford called foul.
“My question was, ‘How can you override a judge’s decision?'” Clifford said. “Why even have them?”
Clifford won’t be allowed to compete alongside 6,000 other state champions in the national event in Louisville, Kentucky — but SkillsUSA will allow her to keep the gold medal she won in Columbus.
“If they allow me to keep my award, they should allow me to keep my place,” Clifford said.