A Brecksville connection

Marcus Barkley

How a long-lasting relationship between three friends has helped shape the future of the Kent State gymnastics team

Senior Jennifer Biondo, freshman Christina Lenny and freshman Christine Abou-Mitri all attended Breckville-Broadview Heights High School and now compete in Kent State gymnastics together. KATIE ROUPE | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

When Rudy Bachna, Kent State’s first gymnastics coach, first met Ron and Joan Ganim, Joan’s last name was Puzder and Ron was a fullback on the Kent State football team who liked to watch gymnasts practice.

After Bachna told Ron to either become a gymnast or learn to coach if he wanted to continue hanging out at the gym, Ron began to work for Rudy and a relationship was born. This relationship would affect Kent State gymnastics for decades to come.

“Joan was a gymnast on the team for Rudy and Ron helped out and he ended up falling in love with Joan,” coach Brice Biggin said.

Ron and Joan married and opened their own gymnastics gym, Gymnastics World, in Broadview Heights. Since its opening in 1975 the gym has had a solid connection with Kent State.

This year, four gymnasts from Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School call Kent State home. Freshmen Christine Abou-Mitri, Christina Lenny and Vitoria Moskalow join senior Jennifer Biondo as representatives of the Bees from Brecksville-Broadview Heights.

Moskalow said it was a tough transition coming into college and trying to maintain both an education and a spot on the team, but having each other helped make the process easier.

“We’re all really close,” Moskalow said. “If anything were to go wrong, we have each other’s backs – we’re like family.”

The three Flashes also give Biondo credit for helping acclimate to college gymnastics.

“If I had any questions about the team, I would go to Jen first,” Lenny said. “That made it less intimidating and a lot easier to get used to the other girls.”

Biondo said she is proud the three freshmen look up to her and wants to follow the example the Ganims were in her life and apply it to her profession following graduation in May.

“I want to work in schools for speech pathology and I would love to coach high school gymnastics,” Biondo said. “Like the coaches at Brecksville, I want to be that support system for someone else.”

Abou-Mitri praises the work of her coaches, especially Biggin, in helping her get used to college gymnastics.

“Brice has taught me to be stern with myself, to never give up and always keep fighting,” Abou-Mitri said.

Ron said Biggin’s coaching ability is something, aside from the bond with the Flashes, that makes him continue to want to send his gymnasts to Kent State.

“I think Brice is doing a fabulous job,” Ganim said. “If I were the athletic director at Kent State, I would give him a lifetime contract.”

Biggin is happy to recruit gymnasts that trained with the Ganims.

“These kids have competed in a high school setting where they are trying to win championships and they have a reputation,” Biggin said. “If we could bring every kid in from (Brecksville-Broadview Heights), believe me – we probably would.”

Though there looks to be no gymnasts from the Brecksville-Broadview Heights team coming here next year, Biggin is confident the school will continue to deliver.

“Even though I don’t think we’ll have anyone from this year’s squad, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised, in the next year or two, to get another one of their kids here – or more.”

Contact gymnastics reporter Marcus Barkley at [email protected].