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“Oh, Say Can You See….”

Nov 27, 2012, 2:48 PM EDT

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You have to be a pretty talented athlete to compete for Notre Dame, so you probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that sophomore cross country runner Megan Heeder followed up a 3200m state title as a high school junior, with a fourth place finish in the 1600m and a second place finish in the 3200m at the Michigan state finals her senior year. Something that is surprising: She also opened the meet with her rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The choice wasn’t an arbitrary one for the meet organizers. Megan performed in the renowned Michigan State University Children’s Choir for years, and has been singing the national anthem at sporting events for half her life.

“My dad coached for the MHSAA, the high school basketball association in Michigan, and he would help out with tournaments because they were at the Breslin Center, which is just like two blocks from our house,” Megan said. “So I started singing the national anthem for those probably when I was nine or ten. I loved performing any chance I could get.”

And the performances continued from there. She sang the anthem before a Michigan St. women’s basketball game as a member of the MSU Children’s Choir, and she would regularly sing before the regional and international dressage she competed in (Did we mention Megan is also an accomplished equestrian? Because she is.)

Megan’s vocal talents haven’t gone unutilized here at Notre Dame. She sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the O.S.C.A.R.S. (Outstanding Student-Athletes Celebrating Achievements & Recognition Showcase) last spring, and after seeing that performance, Mike Harrity of Student Welfare and Development asked if she’d be interested in singing at a varsity soccer game.

“I was like, ‘Oh, I will sing for anything, anytime, any sport,’ so it all just kind of went from there,” Megan said.

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Megan singing at a basketball game during her youth.

And that’s how Megan Heeder, varsity cross country runner, came to be singing the national anthem before the Irish women’s soccer team’s NCAA first round win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Nov. 9.

Luke Bryan, the country star who performed the anthem before the MLB All-Star game this summer, might get some peace of mind from writing the words on his hand before a big performance, but Megan has never worried about getting it right.

“I’ve sung through it so many times that when I sing it I don’t really think about the words,” Megan said. “I’m more focused on vocal things like what I need to do to make something sound smooth, what I need to do to make it seamless, so I’m more focused on that kind of thing than remembering or forgetting the words.”

Although “The Star-Spangled Banner” is a notoriously difficult piece for vocalists, Megan has grown comfortable with it.

“It is kind of hard, but I have a really broad range, and that really comes in handy with the national anthem,” Megan said. “There are definitely songs that are more fun to sing. But at the same time I’ve sung it for so long and I’ve had so many fun experiences singing it in front of people with it, that I really do enjoy singing it.”

Check out video of Megan’s recent performance below.

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