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College Gymnastics: Kent State’s Radon sings tune of success

Nicole Radon is not only a standout performer for the Kent State gymnastics team, she also an accomplished singer, who performs the national anthem before each home meet. (Photo courtesy of Kent State University)
Nicole Radon was selected to sing the national anthem at the NCAA Gymnastics Championships in 2011 just as Kent State became the first MAC school to qualify for the national championships.

Now a sophomore gymnast at Kent State, the Hamburg native is hoping to get back to the competition, but this time as a member of the team.

An avid singer, the Frontier High School graduate is also an important part of a MAC champion Kent State gymnastics team that will compete April 6 in the regional round of the NCAA Championships at the University of Alabama.

A top two place finish among the field of six teams will send the country’s 23rd-ranked Kent State back to the NCAA Championships, which will take place April 19-21 on the campus of UCLA. The top two all-around competitors, who aren’t representing an advancing team, and each event winner will also advance.

“That was pretty awesome getting to sing the national anthem; it was a pretty incredible experience,” said Radon, who at the time was a verbal commit to the college. “I definitely want to make it back and be a part of it this time.”

Radon, who now sings the national anthem before every home meet, helped Kent State to a 6-0 dual meet season as a major contributor on the beam and floor. She posted a personal best 9.85 on beam during the team’s home finale.

A two-time all-around Section VI champion while at Frontier, she feels “blessed” to be able to compete in two events for a team at this level. Although it’s been a major step up competing at a Division I college, Radon’s love for gymnastics has only blossomed.

“Nicole has come into her second season and stepped up,” Kent State head coach Brice Biggin said. “She’s got an easy-going attitude but still is an intense competitor. You’ve got to have a short memory in this sport and she’s been able to do that to become a great contributor.”

Her ability to perform in front of a large audience with a microphone in her hand has only helped in gymnastics. She once performed in front of 30,000 people at Fourth of July festivities and nearly got on a televised audition while trying out for American Idol three years ago.

“I’m usually in front of a lot of people when I sing so it does help me perform in gymnastics, too,” said Radon, who took voice lessons from Bello Voice Studio in Orchard Park. “I’ve been doing it for so long that performing seems natural. I’ve just never been afraid to go out and perform in front of everyone.”

Radon believes this team has worked well as a unit all season, which bolds well for a competition as big as the one its about to embark on.

“To get to this level, you’ve got to have the right kids,” Biggin said. “The group worked very hard and with a purpose. They knew what they wanted to accomplish. You’re only as strong as your weakest link.”

Kent State will compete against some tough competition in host No. 3 Alabama, No. 9 Utah, No. 15 Denver, BYU and Iowa State. Biggin is looking for his team to limit mistakes and take advantage of opponents’ miscues to qualify for the NCAA Championships.

“It’s been a really great year and one we’re really proud of,” Biggin said. “The team stepped up week in and week out. That’s all we can expect from them.”

Radon remains confident she’ll get back to the NCAA Championships again, this time around to compete. “I think we have a good chance at NCAAs if we keep up our determination and focus,” she noted.

And when she’s done with college and gymnastics, Radon plans to use that same focus and determination to pursue her dream on another stage.
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