ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — The new Miss America will take the traditional morning-after romp through the Atlantic City surf Monday morning.
Miss Georgia Betty Cantrell won the title on Sunday night.
Cantrell rode an opera performance from "Madame Butterfly" to the 2016 title in Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall, besting 51 other competitors in the nationally televised pageant. She won a preliminary competition earlier in the week, also with an opera performance.
The pageant also marked the return of Miss America 1984 Vanessa Williams, who was back for the first time after resigning the crown in 1984 following a nude photo scandal. Pageant executive chairman Sam Haskell apologized to Williams, who served as head judge, on behalf of the pageant.
"I want to apologize for anything that was said or done," Haskell told Williams as they stood on the stage and the audience bathed her in applause. "Vanessa: Welcome back!"
Cantrell was asked during the question-and-answer portion of the pageant whether New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady cheated en route to his team's run to a Super Bowl title last season by using footballs that were improperly deflated. A league-imposed four-game suspension of Brady was recently overturned by a federal judge.
Cantrell responded, saying, "I'm not sure.
"I'd have to see the ball and feel it" she said, before adding, "If there's any question, then yes, he cheated."
Asked by The Associated Press to clarify her remarks afterward, Cantrell said, "It was kind of a funky question to ask me if Tom Brady cheated. I'm not a football player, and I really wasn't there to feel that ball. If there was any question as to whether or not he cheated and somebody else felt the ball and decided that it was deflated, then yes, I guess he did cheat."
Cantrell won a $50,000 scholarship along with her title.
The 1st runner-up was Miss Mississippi, Hannah Roberts, who earned a $25,000 scholarship. Her talent was classical violin. The 2nd runner up was Miss Colorado, Kelley Johnson, who performed an original monologue and won a $20,000. Scholarship.
Miss Georgia's win ended New York's dominance at the Miss America pageant. Last year's Miss America, Kira Kazantsev, was the third consecutive Miss New York to win the title.
Contestants from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico were vying for the crown. The U.S. Virgin islands, which competed last year, could not field the required minimum number of entrants this year, pageant officials said. It is eligible for future competitions.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC