It has been quite a year for Nova Southeastern University tennis player Kamryn Blackwood.
Last summer, she went to the African nation of Kenya on a humanitarian mission.
Last weekend, she went to Las Cruces, N.M., where she was named Miss New Mexico.
In May, she will graduate from Nova with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
And on June 16, she will travel to Nassau, Bahamas, to compete for the Miss USA crown.
Somewhere in there, she will find time to compete in tennis — Nova begins its season at home Feb. 1 against Florida Tech.
Blackwood, a 5-7 senior, began preparing for Miss New Mexico months ago but kept that fact secret from her teammates.
“I kept it low-key,” she told NSU’s website. “Tennis was my priority, and I made a commitment to my school and teammates. I didn’t tell anyone because I wanted them to know my commitment was to the team.
“But this was something I felt in my heart that I needed to try. And when we started [preparing], I immediately fell in love with it.”
Blackwood, a native of Farmington, N.M., is a natural competitor, having won a gymnastic all-around title at age 8 before switching to tennis.
A three-sport standout at Farmington High — she also competed in soccer and basketball — Blackwood went 67-0 in doubles during her prep tennis career.
Things haven’t come as easy in college, where her career singles record is just 4-7. She is 11-17 in doubles.
She has been much more prolific off the court. Miss New Mexico was her first beauty pageant, but she obviously aced all three categories — personality interview, swimsuit fitness and evening gown. She also won Miss Congeniality.
As for her trip to Kenya, she visited an orphanage in Kisumu, where virtually every child had AIDS, and there weren’t enough funds to feed them more than three times all week.
“We loved on these kids,” Blackwood told the Miami Herald recently. “As much as we were helping them, they were teaching us.”
Blackwood and a team of about 19 others used sticks and mud to build 10 homes during their stay as part of a project called Houses of Hope.
“It was definitely emotional,” she said. “Every one of us had tears in our eyes at some point on this trip.
“We should be grateful every day. You may not have a great job in America, but you are still here. These people we met in Kenya had nothing, but they were still happy. They didn’t speak English except they were constantly saying ‘thank you.’ ”
Blackwood plans on becoming an FBI agent. But she would love to stay involved with the people of Africa.
“I want to go back so bad,” she said. “It was life-changing.”