Xavier University of Louisiana’s competitive cheer team made history this weekend, earning the Catholic HBCU’s first-ever national championship in athletics.
The Gold Nuggets squad defeated defending champion Oklahoma City University with an overall score of 93.70—a meet record for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), which inaugurated its cheer championship in 2017.
The NAIA is the only collegiate athletics association sponsoring a championship in the event, and XULA is the first HBCU to take home the title.
In just their third year in the sport, XULA dominated the competition all season long, posting a 33-0 record on the season coming into the event and holding the highest average score among all teams.
They became just the second team from the historic New Orleans school to finish a season undefeated, following the 1940-41 men’s basketball squad which went 29-0 (but was not invited to any postseason events).
Head cheer coach Glenn Caston brought 23 of his 40 available team members to the championships—held at the George Gervin GameAbove Center in Ypsilanti, Michigan—and more than half were underclassmen, according to the XULA athletics website.
XULA cheer was ranked second going into the final round on Saturday morning. Their preliminary score of 91.83 trailed only Iowa’s St. Ambrose University, another Catholic university, which finished the event in third.
In the end, XULA received no deductions in Saturday’s competition, marking a fitting end to a season for the ages.
Their victory comes just 6 months after XULA hired its new athletic director Nathan Cochran, formerly of Kentucky State University in Frankfort. His predecessor Jason Horn had been named the NAIA Athletics Director of the Year in September 2020—another HBCU first.
Prior to Saturday’s red banner in cheer, the closest XULA had come to a national championship was runner-up finishes in men’s tennis in 2016, 2017, and 2019.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).