OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Betty Thompson grew up on a Lincoln County dairy farm, so promoting milk as part of her pageant duties has always seemed natural to her.
As the new Miss Oklahoma, Thompson wants to spread the message about the positive health benefits of dairy products. Her platform during the pageant was "Milk — It Really Does a Body Good."
"Dairy has been a big part of my life all of my life," Thompson told The Associated Press on Sunday. "Always at the dairy shows, I showed dairy cattle growing up. It's something I've always been around.
"I'll be focusing on teaching students the importance of making healthy lifestyle choices at an early age," she said. "Habits are formed at a young age, so we want to focus on them drinking milk instead of Cokes or sweet tea."
She's been promoting dairy products and fitness initiatives during the past few years while participating in pageants. Last month, she appeared at an event in Cashion along with Chris Chamberlain, a Bethany native who plays for the NFL's St. Louis Rams, encouraging youngsters to exercise at least an hour every day.
Thompson, a 22-year-old from Davenport — population 881 — is a senior elementary education major at Oklahoma State University. She was crowned as Miss Oklahoma in Tulsa on Saturday night, capping her third run at the pageant title.
Thompson competed as Miss Oklahoma State in 2009 and was Miss Northwest Passage last year, when she finished as the runner-up to outgoing Miss Oklahoma Emoly West. Thompson again competed in this year's Miss Oklahoma pageant as Miss Oklahoma State.
During the talent portion of the pageant, Thompson performed an Irish step dance to the song "A Dangerous Game." She said she fell in love with Irish dancing after watching a performance of "Riverdance" in Chicago as a child.
"Two years later, an Irish dance teacher from California moved to Davenport and started teaching classes in the Presbyterian Church basement," she said. "We didn't go looking for an Irish dance school. It came to us!"
Thompson has gone on to teach Irish dance classes in Sapulpa and Edmond.
After coming so close to winning in 2010, Thompson said she was ready for this year's pageant.
"I know God's will is at work in my life," Thompson said. "I did everything I possibly could and prepared as much as possible. I was at peace this week because I knew no matter what, I have a plan for my life."
That plan will change a bit because of her new title. Thompson needs only to complete her student teaching to finish her degree at Oklahoma State, but she'll take the next year off from school to focus on her duties as Miss Oklahoma. She'll eventually take the $15,000 in scholarship money to finish her degree at OSU and work on another degree in secondary education at Oklahoma City University.
She'll compete for the Miss America crown in January in Las Vegas. Oklahoma has a proud history of success in that pageant in recent years, with Jennifer Berry Gooden of Tulsa winning in 2006 and Lauren Nelson Faram of Lawton winning in 2007.
"I've watched Jennifer Berry get crowned so many times. I had it recorded," Thompson said. "And again with Lauren. The Miss Oklahoma organization does an incredible job of preparing the ladies for Miss America. Miss Oklahoma is so well-prepared and taken care of when she goes to Las Vegas."
The first runner-up for Miss Oklahoma was Damaris Pierce, 23, of Sapulpa, who won a $7,000 scholarship. Alicia Clifton, 19, of Oklahoma City received a $4,000 scholarship as the second runner-up; Heather Harris, 23, of Oklahoma City won $3,000 as the third runner-up; and Alex Eppler, 20, of The Woodlands, Texas — who competed as Miss Tulsa — won $2,000 as the fourth runner-up.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.