The Marietta resident will attempt to become just the second Miss America from Georgia since Neva Langley Fickling of Macon wore the crown in 1953. She is the sixth Miss Cobb County winner to compete since 2009 Miss Georgia Emily Cook of Marietta.
The Miss American Pageant will be broadcast live from Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas at 9 p.m. Jan. 15 on ABC.
"I feel so excited - nervous, yes - but I just came from another voice/modeling lesson today and I feel so much more confident than I ever have," said McCauley, 22. "It's finally time."
A pageant veteran since the age 16, it is her confidence, gained through years of experience, that McCauley says has been behind her recent success.
Last year, she traveled to Las Vegas for the first time to watch Cook compete and get a sense of what it was like to be on the national stage. Despite three failed attempts of her own, she said the trip only strengthened her desire to compete for Miss America.
"I just remember thinking, 'I hope this is me next year,'" said McCauley, salutatorian of Pebblebrook High School's class of 2006.
Upon returning to Marietta, she did just that. On June 19, McCauley won the 2010 Miss Georgia Scholarship Pageant on her fourth try, competing as Miss Southern Heartland. However, she considers Cobb home, having won the 2008 Miss Cobb title.
Even if she hadn't won Miss Georgia this year, McCauley said she would have kept trying, a testament to her perseverance.
McCauley came up short at the 2009 Miss Georgia pageant, after winning the qualifying Miss Southern Empire pageant. Prior to that, she placed third runner-up at the 2008 Miss Georgia pageant, following her Miss Cobb win. She was the Miss Cherokee County titleholder in 2007. That allowed her to compete for the 2007 state crown, where she was the fourth runner-up.
For the past six years, John and Rebecca McCauley, both Air Force veterans, have experienced the highs and lows with their eldest of three daughters (Christina's sisters are Meghan and Katherine).
"She started competing in talent competitions," her father said. "That's the big thing for me, I always enjoy watching her compete talentwise. Of course, it just expanded into this whole pageant thing. But that's the big thrill for me is when she wins talent."
For the Miss America talent competition, McCauley will sing the "Queen of the Night" aria from Mozart's "The Magic Flute." She'll wear a two-piece black swimsuit for the swimsuit competition and a gold, custom designed dress for the evening gown competition. Scoliosis awareness is her personal platform issue. She recovered from scoliosis after being diagnosed with it at age 10.
In 2010, McCauley graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in music from Birmingham Southern College. After winning Miss Georgia, she took time off from studying early childhood education at Kennesaw State University, but plans to resume after Miss America.
Hopefully, that will be sometime after 2011.
McCauley said she is leaving for Las Vegas in early January and expects to spend the next year traveling the country as the new Miss America.
"Of course I see myself winning and going on to serve as Miss America for a year," she said.