Herd cheer caps historic season, earns third place at NCA Collegiate Cheer Championship

From Frisco, Texas to Albuquerque, New Mexico to San Diego, California, the Marshall cheerleading squad has supported Thundering Herd athletics on some of the nation’s largest stages this season. This past weekend, the Marshall cheer squad moved from the sidelines to center stage, taking third place in Division I-A Small Co-ed at the National Collegiate Cheer National Championships.

It was the Herd’s highest finish in program history, an accomplishment that head coach Jake Gilliam said reflects all the effort that he has seen in his program; not just this season, but also in the years leading up to a win on a national stage.

“When I inherited the team, they had just made the jump into advanced (division), and that was a tough year,” Gilliam said. “My first year with the team we got second-to-last. The year after, we moved up a couple spots, but to make a jump this big and finish third this year; it’s a reflection of the talent level we have, and the work that our athletes and coaches have put in.”

Senior cheerleader Mike Simmoneau has seen Marshall cheer at its lowest and highest points. He said the annual competition is a chance to showcase just how much pride they take in their sport.

“We go to so many other athletic events, Simmoneau said.” This competition is our reward at the end of the year; to showcase what we’ve worked on all year long.”

Simmoneau took the competition floor with just six other upperclassmen in Daytona this past weekend. With a wave a young talent on the roster, Simmoneau said the expectation for next year’s team is even higher.

“National championship,” Simmoneau said. “There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to win it after what we did this year and what they have coming back next year.”

“That’s ultimately the goal, we want to get that trophy,” Gilliam said. “This was confirmation that what we’re doing is the right thing. We’re going to continue to work hard. Louisville won it last year, and we placed above them this time around. We can do this. We can compete with the big teams.”

Gilliam said that though the number is much smaller, the returning members of the cheer squad provide valuable experience, as the team looks to stay prominent on a national level.

“We’ve got a great core of veterans coming back,” Gilliam said. “They’ve created a culture now that works hard, and so we’re going to stick to our guns in that respect. One thing that we have to do to be able to compete with the top teams is improve our tumbling, so that will be a focus for the coming year.”

Luke Creasy can be contacted at [email protected].