After a big win XULA Cheer is on their way to NAIA cheer nationals, again.

By Aamari Benford

XULA cheer team has done it again. The team will return to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) cheer competition to defend their title as national champs. The NAIA Cheer and Dance Competition held “The Battle in the Big Easy” that took place Thursday Feb. 9. 2023 to Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023 at Xavier’s Convocation Center.

“I feel triumphant, I feel devoted to this. It’s like although I am tired, I know that I’m doing this for a deeper purpose and I’m committed, no matter how many times my body or mind is telling me I’m too tired,” said Teddie Reid, a Xavier senior who is the captain of the cheerleading team.

“We are doing this for the younger Black athletes that look like us. The younger children that look like us. To inspire them, empower them and give them the motivation and the belief that they can do this too and they can be successful in this world,” Reid said.

XULA cheer team performs a 3-tier pyramid

The XULA cheer team showed why they were last year’s winners with a performance mixed with impressive stunts, sharp moves, high flips, and an all-out superior routine. The team ultimately earned the big win. They made a statement by scoring 97.72 over Dillard University’s cheer team, who scored 75.44.

The teams competed over a three-day span. XULA’s cheer squad has now won each battle in the NAIA’s Big Easy Cheer Competition. The history of cheer wins has been record setting for XULA cheerleaders. They have regional championship competition titles for 2021, 2022, and now in 2023.

The team won first place at nationals last year and became the first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to take home that title. Other HBCUs that participated in this weekend’s events were Langston University and Dillard University. On competition day on Feb. 10, Langston University scored second place in the “Battle in the Big Easy” and on Saturday, Feb. 11, Dillard University earned second place in the group championship meet.

“I have never felt so supported in cheer until I came to Xavier. We have a bond like no other which allows us to trust in every single person on the mat,” said Kendall Baggett, a Xavier freshman and member of the cheer team.

Teams await the final scores of the Battle of the Big Easy NAIA competition. Pictured from left to right are Montreat College, Dillard University, and Xavier’s cheer teams.

“Our coach is also what makes our team different. No one is as giving and supportive as him, in or out of cheer. He molds us into individuals who can hit a routine under any circumstance and into people who, once we graduate, will be able to succeed in our life and in our careers,” Baggett said.

Head Chair Coach Glenn Caston, whose expertise led the team to multiple victories, has been coaching at Xavier as competitive head coach, for roughly five years. In 2022, Caston was selected as the vice president of the NAIA Cheer Coaches Association, and he has won the NAIA Cheer Coach of the Year award in 2022 and 2023.

“No matter if we win or lose, I’ll be happy that not just me, but my team did everything we could do with the time we spent together this season,” said Tia Barrett, a sophomore member of the cheer team.

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