Grambling State University’s nationally recognized cheerleading squad won first place at the Worldwide Spirit Association competition. In there first appearance at WSA, they took top honors while recruiting and astonishing other competitors.
“I have unspeakable joy coming in first place; however, the greatest joy is knowing that our fallen tiger, Robert, is smiling down upon us because we laid our skills and our hearts on the mat in remembrance of him.” Ginia Smith, a junior biology major from Lafayette, said.
The competition, which was held in New Orleans, took place Feb. 21-23. Many schools and cheer squads throughout the country participated in this competition including the Mississippi Outlaws Gamblers, Louisiana Cheer Force Blush, Prairie View A&M University, Texas Lone Star Cheer, and East Carolina University.
The GSU cheer squad annual competes in one competition a year, but this year coach Terry Lilly waned to branch out and give the opportunity for more to participate. The squad consists of 64 girls and boys, but only 38 participated in the competition. For the National Cheerleaders Association competition in Dayton, only about 20 cheerleaders will be able to attend.
“This was our first time competing somewhere other then NCA Nationals in Daytona,” Steva Lowery Jr., a senior kinesiology major from El Dorado, Ark., said.
“Other teams that were there were really glad to finally see Grambling perform.”
Coach Lilly also wanted to show other schools what Grambling has to offer and to attract potential students. There were numerous high school and prep squad teams from the Louisiana area.
Grambling cheerleaders traveled for five hours, and didn’t make it to New Orleans until 2 a.m. on Saturday. The squad was scheduled to leave late Friday, which was changed due to a teammate participating in a play.
“Academics are always first,” said Lilly. “It would have been so selfish of me to make her choose between the competition and her play, so we left once she was done.”
By leaving late, the GSU cheer squad missed the scheduled practice time designed by the competition.
“We were ready when we left home,” said Lilly. “We didn’t need to practice, we were ready.”
Lilly has been the cheerleading coach for 24 years and is filled with confidence in his program. Lowery, on the hand, was a little worried for the performance.
“The biggest scare was the spring floor that most of us have never trained on,” Lowery said. It was very last minute (when) we warmed up on it.”
However, Lilly poise was on target, and his cheerleaders overcome adversity and won top honors.
“It was hands down ours,” Lowery said. “It was a great feeling to have that (trophy) in our hands.”
He even admits that finally landing a “full twisting layout”, during his first-time performing it made the moment unforgettable.
GSU cheer squad practices everyday, so they stay prepared. Cheer routines consist of an opening, stunts, tumbling, dance, cheer routine and a pyramid. The squad learned about the WSA competition only a week before the actual event.
“Everything just falls into place,” said Shayna Wilcox, a senior kinesiology major from Shreveport, said. “We got what we deserved. Our routines aren’t always appreciated, but this time we got what we deserve!”
Although they won this competition, the GSU cheer is preparing for two more contests one in Georgia in a few weeks and one in Daytona in April.
“In the meantime our main focus is the basketball game coming up,” Lilly said. “Besides competitions, we are here to support our basketball team.”