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Miss America in Atlantic City

ATLANTIC CITY — Betty Cantrell got a taste of what her life will be like this year.

Cantrell, known as Miss Georgia just 11 hours earlier, made her first public appearance Monday morning as Miss America, posing for pictures and dipping her feet in the Atlantic Ocean. The 21-year-old was surrounded by pageant officials, police officers and an army of reporters and photographers.

As she walked the Boardwalk and descended onto the beach, she struggled to keep her hair in place in the ocean’s breeze. But the crown stayed put, thanks to “about a hundred pins,” she said. The water was freezing and salty, she said, “but it was great.”

“I’m from Georgia so how could you not expect me to think it’s cold?” she said.

Cantrell said she’s been “wide awake” since winning the crown. She said she was running on 45 minutes of sleep and five cups of coffee. Asked where she was off to next, she said, “Wherever they tell me.”

Highs, lows from a well-watched Miss America broadcast

Cantrell’s platform is “Healthy Children, Strong America.” She said she will use her title to spread that platform and “be inspiring to young women across America.”

Cantrell won a $50,000 scholarship by the Miss America Organization and Joseph Ribkoff Clothing on Sunday night. Cantrell sang the aria “Tu Tu Piccolo Iddio” from Madame Butterfly for her talent. She wore a white two-piece dress in the evening wear portion.

For her on-stage question, Cantrell said she’d have to see the deflated footballs to determine whether New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady cheated in the AFC Championship game last year. Later, she said he cheated. At the post-pageant press conference, she defended her answer.

“I think that’s a funky question to ask me,” she told a reporter Sunday, saying she doesn’t play the sport.

Cantrell is of Greek and German decent and her first name is actually Baciliky, according to the Miss America Organization website. The name means “Royalty.” She grew up in Warner Robins, Georgia on 700 acres, which are managed for wildlife, the website said. Her skills include driving a full-sized John Deere tractor, plowing and seeding fields and handling a shotgun. She said in a promo video before the pageant that she grew up without cable TV.

Reporters and photographers vying for her attention called her by “Betty,” “Miss Georgia” and “Miss America.” She said it will “take a while” to get used to answering to “Miss America.” The whole thing hasn’t hit her yet, she said.

“I’m still waiting for it to fully sink in,” she said.

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