PALM SPRINGS, Calf. (AP) – A 17-year-old poet from Louisiana has been crowned Miss Teen USA 2004.

Shelley Catherine Hennig of Destrehan, La., defeated 50 other contestants Friday night to take the title. She succeeds Tami Nichole Farrell of Phoenix, Ore.

“I was just myself on stage, I think that helped a lot,” she said after the NBC-televised ceremonies.

Hennig won a year of rent-free living in New York City, a tiara valued at $17,500 and several other prizes. She will spend the next year traveling and speaking to teens, pageant organizers said.

The honor roll student had a poem published in the “Young Authors Book of Poetry” and hopes to attend New York University.

Sonya Balmores of Hawaii was first runner-up. Entrants competed in three categories – swimsuit, evening gown and interview.

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