Houston & Peach

Miss Georgia Betty Cantrell brings health message to her hometown

WARNER ROBINS -- If the Miss America Pageant judged contestants solely on how well rounded they are, Miss Georgia Betty Cantrell might have the title in the bag.

The Warner Robins resident and graduate of Mount de Sales Academy in Macon can sing opera, plow a field and skin a rabbit.

She discussed her diverse skill set Thursday prior to visiting with youngsters at the Warner Robins Recreation Department’s annual summer camp. She grew up on a farm, and her father was an avid hunter.

“I always went hunting with him when I was little, so I learned to skin a rabbit, clean a deer, all those great things that every girl should know,” she said.

She still likes to hunt when she can find the time.

Cantrell’s pageant platform is healthy living, and she talked to the children about good eating and exercise habits. She even led them in a round of jumping jacks, without losing her tiara.

She asked the children to pledge to do 30 jumping jacks for every 30 minutes they spend watching TV.

Cantrell, 20, is a student at Mercer University, but her college education has to be put on hold while she is Miss Georgia because it’s a full-time job. She has put 4,000 miles on her car in the month since she won the title, going all over the state for events such as Thursday’s in Warner Robins. On Friday, she will be visiting hospitalized children in Macon.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” she said. “It’s not even real to me yet.”

She told the children about how she will be competing Sept. 13 in the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey, to be broadcast on ABC. Cantrell told the youngsters the contest will involve her going on stage in a bikini with a nationwide audience watching. She said she isn’t nervous about that because she works out daily and eats healthy foods.

Cantrell invited the children to help her prepare for one part of the contest. She said a portion of the competition involves judges asking her questions, so she told the campers they could help her practice by asking whatever they wanted.

They asked lots of questions, although probably none the judges will ask. The children’s question included “How fast can you run?” “How tall are you?” and “How fast can you swim?”

She didn’t claim to be very fast at running or swimming. In fact, she admitted she really doesn’t like running but does it to stay healthy.

Her parents own the Cantrell Center, a physical therapy and sports medicine facility in Warner Robins. She said that’s what inspired her to make healthy living her platform.

“I was brought up in a household where being healthy and nutrition conscious and exercising was pretty much everything,” she said. “I wanted to carry that out to those children who didn’t grow up in a home like I did.”

Cantrell won the talent portion of the Miss Georgia Pageant by singing opera. She said her dream is to become a Broadway actress and sing in a musical.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.