Xavier University made history in a traditionally white sport. The school’s cheer squad has become the first HBCU team to win the national cheerleading championship.
The 40-member team came in first place at the 2022 NAIA Cheer Championships, which took place on Mar. 11 and 12. They earned the highest point total in the championship’s history with a 93.7 score out of 100, beating St. Ambrose of Iowa and Indiana Wesleyan.
Xavier’s win was their first NAIA national team championship in any sport.
“For these young athletes to be able to show their skills on a national stage was phenomenal. They’re very talented, and there is a lot of athleticism on the floor that goes into competitive cheer, which I think many people don’t realize,” Nathan Cochran, Xavier’s Executive Director of Athletics, said. “The intensity and all of the hard work that went into this has paid off in a very big way.”
Xavier University in Louisiana is the only historically Black Catholic university in the United States. Founded by Philadelphia heiress, philanthropist, and educator, Mother Katharine Drexel in 1925, she opened a high school for Black students in New Orleans in 1915. Drexel was canonized as a Roman Catholic Saint in 2000 by Pope John Paul II, then had a separate campus built for Xavier, which was completed in 1933.
Despite being a small university with just 3,300 students, Xavier has produced more Black medical school graduates each year than any other college in the U.S. Its College of Pharmacy has also been among the top producers of African American pharmacists.
However, their recent cheerleading triumph proved challenging as there hadn’t previously been a team in place. The sport was initially just a club activity and was run solely by its students.
“We only had seven cheerleaders, no uniforms, and no official head coach,” the squad’s head coach Glenn Caston recalled following his arrival at the university in 2017. “My goal was to stabilize the program and inject discipline.”
One member of Xavier’s cheerleading team, Amiyah Chapman, said she chose to join them because they were an all-Black squad.
“I was the only African American cheerleader in my high school and one of only eight Black folks in the entire school,” she said. “I wasn’t used to seeing people who looked like me. So, I was excited to be around people I could relate to on a cultural level.”
She added that her team was more than prepared for their most recent competition.
“We were ready mentally and physically,” Chapman said. “We stuck with our goals and crushed [them].”
The 6th Annual NAIA Competitive Cheer National Championship reportedly featured 15 cheerleading teams from across the U.S., including Xavier’s.