Kiara Nowlin: Golden girl

Senior acrobatics and tumbling member Kiara Nowlin, left, and junior Shayla Moore take part in their team routine on April 29 at the Ferrell Center during the National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association tournament. The Bears took home their second straight national title. Photo credit: Lariat File Photo

By Shayla Kelley | Reporter

Kiara Nowlin, an Oxnard, Calif., senior on the acrobatics and tumbling team, is not only a superstar at Baylor University, but she has also captured many other titles from her past sports.

Monique Nowlin, Kiara’s mother, said she spotted something different about her daughter from early.

“Her father and I noticed how coordinated Kiara was at an extremely young age,” Monique said. “She began walking at 9-and-a-half months, and by age 2-and-a-half, she was throwing back handsprings. By age 3, Kiara was tumbling in exhibitions on behalf of her gymnastics program, and she quickly progressed to advanced tumbling from there. Some people are born with special gifts, and for Kiara, one of them is her tumbling ability.”

Through her hard work and determination, Nowlin claimed the 2007 World Age Games gold medal in power tumbling, the 2008 and 2009 USAG Winter-Classic first-place titles sand the 2009 USASF Gold Medal Young Athlete Merit Scholarship.

“It was a truly unbelievable experience winning my first gold medal. I wasn’t even expecting to place well because it was such a prestigious competition,” Nowlin said. “I was shocked when I won. It really boosted my confidence knowing I could do well against other amazing power tumblers.”

This special moment was also shared by Monique, who watched her daughter in the crowd.

“I was overcome with pride that my little girl was representing her country, and when Kiara stood on the podium and they raised the American flag high and played our national anthem. I teared up, and her father swelled with pride. We were so very happy for her,” Monique said. “All the hard work she put in, all the sacrifices she made, paid off. To this day, I still tear up thinking about it. Just a moment one never forgets.”

Nowlin did not stop there. In 2009, she claimed the World Age Games gold medal in both tumbling and double mini trampoline.

“I did not think I would ever win two gold medals,” Nowlin said. “This time around, I knew I could place well if I hit my passes, but I definitely thought winning again was out of the question.”

Because of her success in athletics, Nowlin had many opportunities that young middle and high school students are not usually given.

“Kiara has had some amazing opportunities: representing her country as an athlete of USA Gymnastics in places like Russia and France, being a special guest on shows like the ‘Ellen DeGeneres Show’ and ‘Steve Harvey Show’ and other unique experiences people her age have not had,” Monique said.

Kiara Nowlin became an all-star cheerleader, where her team claimed gold three times at the world championship. She now competes for the acrobatic and tumbling team at Baylor and has been All-American for three years, in addition to capturing the Rookie of the Year award.

“I chose [acrobatics and tumbling] because it combined the skill sets of gymnastics and competitive cheerleading,” Nowlin said. “There was little opportunity for either of these sports at a collegiate level, so [acrobatics and tumbling] was the perfect sport for me.”

Although Nowlin has traveled the world claiming gold medals for the USA, she said that acrobatics and tumbling has tested her.

“[Acrobatics and tumbling] is definitely the most challenging sport I’ve ever done,” Nowlin said. “Of course, every sport I did required strength and agility, but [acrobatics and tumbling] takes it to a whole new level. A part of training for this sport is weight lifting, which was something that was completely new to me as a freshman. The fact that we train and compete on a dead mat requires us to be very strong.”

Senior acrobatics and tumbling team member Hannah Henke said Nowlin makes a huge impact on the team.

“Kiara helps the team in so many ways,” Henke said. “Yeah, she is extremely talented, but I think the way she carries herself and her constant choice of putting others first is what speaks highly of her character. She is such a team player.”

Nowlin said her favorite competitive sport is acrobatics and tumbling.

“I love the skill set, and although the meets are extremely competitive, my team and I always have so much fun,” Nowlin said.

Henke said she is honored to get the privilege to compete with Nowlin.

“It is truly a privilege to be Kiara’s teammate.” Henke said. “She is genuine, humble and always encourages those who are around her. She tends to set the mood at practice because of her contagious laughter and sense of humor. I can always count on her for a good laugh or story. She is also super dependable, and her work ethic and talent is out of this world. “

Baylor acrobatics and tumbling will compete at the Ferrell Center Feb. 12 in its first competition of the season.