UF senior competes for Miss America crown Sunday night despite painful injury


Published: Saturday, September 14, 2013 at 6:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 14, 2013 at 6:29 p.m.

No pain, no gain.

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Miss Florida -- 20-year-old University of Florida telecommunication senior Myrrhanda Jones -- is shown competing in Thursday's preliminary talent competition for the Miss America pageant. She is wearing a specially made brace after earlier tearing her ACL and MCL during practice. She later won Thursday's preliminary competition, putting her in a good position to make the final group featured in Sunday's telecast on ABC. (Photo courtesy of the Miss America Organization)

You hear that phrase again and again, usually coming out of the mouths of athletes who have played through one injury or another.

You don't often hear it about a contestant in the Miss America pageant.

But Miss Florida — 20-year-old University of Florida telecommunications senior Myrrhanda Jones — could put Robert Griffin III and Maurice Jones-Drew to shame.

In the final practice session before Thursday's preliminary round of this year's competition in Atlantic City, N.J., Jones collapsed in a heap during her baton routine. The former captain of the UF Gatorettes was in great pain and unable to move off the stage floor.

She was rushed to the hospital, where the head of sports medicine gave her the bad news: She had torn both her anterior and medial collateral ligaments — an injury that has sidelined professional athletes indefinitely.

"The doctor told me his recommendation was that I immediately have an operation to repair my knee," Jones said. "He said a football player would be out all season. I told him that a football player has the next season to come back from his injury, but I had 90 seconds to perform in the next three hours."

The doctor and his assistant handcrafted a knee brace designed for wide receivers of the Philadelphia Eagles and fitted it on her knee. Three hours later, Jones, who is also allergic to painkillers stronger than Tylenol, took the stage, performed a simplified version of her routine and received a standing ovation from the pageant crowd.

"I told myself then and there that if I were to receive nothing else in this pageant, I received a standing ovation at the Miss America competition," Jones said.

But that would not be the case.

At the end of Thursday's preliminaries, host Dena Blizzard announced Jones as the winner of the preliminary talent competition, putting her in a good position for making the final group featured on Sunday night's telecast on ABC.

"I just have to think that the judges saw that I left my heart on that stage," Jones said.

The adrenaline began to wear off as she stood on stage with the other 52 contestants, and she began to weaken. Miss Hawaii stepped out of her spot on stage and put her arm around Jones to support her. After winning the competition, she limped down the runway to the cheers of the appreciative crowd.

"What was overwhelming was that when I left the stage, all the other girls had formed a cordon and hugged and high-fived me," Jones said. "I just hope that whatever happens on Sunday night, people remember that Miss Florida had heart."

The final night of the competition will be broadcast starting at 9 p.m. Sunday on WCJB-TV 20 in the Gainesville market.

Jones has been active in the local pageant scene for many years. A graduate of Buchholz High School, she was Miss Gainesville 2011. Her parents are Charles and Lynn Jones of Gainesville.

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