Little Girl With Big Stink Takes Home Prize At Rotten Sneaker Contest

03/30/2014 09:05 am ET | Updated Apr 02, 2014

New York City smelled just a little bit worse this week.

A 12-year-old girl from Las Cruces, N.M. proudly held up her duct tape-wrapped, soiled sneakers and was proclaimed winner Tuesday at the Odor-Eaters National Rotten Sneaker Contest at Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Times Square.

"I've worn them everywhere for two years," 7th grader Jordan Armstrong said. "They're on my feet when I'm in school and I keep them on when I play sports. Sometimes I even worn them to bed."

Her father, a recently retired Army sergeant at the White Sands Missile Range, is ready to declare the foul footwear "enemy combatants" and order them shipped off indefinitely to Guantanamo Bay.

Still, the winner and her mother celebrated this weekend. In addition to a $2,500 cash prize -- given to the bubbly, proudly pungent girl in the form of a four-foot-long novelty check -- Armstrong and her mom enjoyed a $1,500 New York City getaway, including tickets to "The Lion King" on Broadway.

The runner-up, 14-year-old Alex Berner, was all smiles, as he explained his strategy to victory: "No socks!"

The seven contestants -- ranging in age from 5- to 15-years old -- also hail from Wasilla, Ala., Hickory Hills, Ill.; Burton, Mich.; Holden, Utah; and Lilburn, Ga.

The contest, now in its 39th year, serves as publicity for Odor-Eaters. The prizes and TV exposure are more than enough incentive for eager kids and their parents to submit their noxious Nikes and odorous Adidas for admission into the company's "Hall Of Fumes."

NASA "Master Sniffer" George Aldrich has served as a contest judge for 14 years. Aldrich is a chemist for the space agency, with a specialty in odors. For more than four decades, he has made sure that all smells on our nation's spacecraft are copacetic.

It's an important job, Aldrich says, because you "just can't open a window, when you're in space." Just ask the Russians. The USSR had to abort a mission in 1976 because of some hideous stench.

NASA tests and calibrates Aldrich's nose once a year.

"I still gag sometimes when I judge this contest," Aldrich says. "The kids who live on farms and near ponds tend to do very well. Walking through a chicken coup is especially effective."

Rachel Herz, a Brown University professor who specializes in the psychology of smell, is another judge. She is author of the book, "That's Disgusting."

The other judges: Claudio Schapsis of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Times Square and HuffPost Weird News executive editor Buck Wolf.

"It's not enough that the sneakers repel me," Herz says. "They should make me feel faint...That's the kind of stink that takes home the gold."

Odor-Eaters Rotten Sneaker Contest
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