Brentwood grad Todd helps energize Gannon cheer team
Gannon University's competitive cheer team recently enjoyed a smashing debut.
The Lady Knights captured first place in their division in their first-ever team competition — the “Cheer for a Cure” — which was held in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
And, on a local note, Shannon Todd, a Brentwood High School graduate, is a key member of the Gannon team.
Todd, 20, is a junior flyer for the Lady Knights, and a respiratory therapy major at Gannon.
“I think our performance was nothing short of spectacular,” Todd said. “Being an inaugural team and heading into our first competition definitely was an experience, and we knew there was going to be some pressure. I think a lot of us were nervous but we knew what we had to do to come out with a first-place win.
“We all went into warmups being pretty calm — we had our game faces on. During warmups, we hit every part of our routine. This left us feeling confident, and knowing we could hit everything on the performance floor. When it came time to perform, I don't think we could've been more anxious. We said a prayer led by our coach, yelled our chant to get us pumped up, and then headed out onto the floor. I knew we would come out as winners if we just believed.”
Listed at 5-foot-2, Todd, is one of the more diminutive — and dynamic — athletes in the Gannon competitive cheer program.
“Shannon is a great performer and brings a lot of energy to the routine,” said Meghan Foran, head coach of Gannon's competitive cheer team. “Her strength is in stunting — partner stunts, basket tosses and pyramid. She flies in our specialty toss during tumbling, and is also the center toss in the team toss section.
“She is the final specialty element in our team pyramid as well.”
The Lady Knights finished first in the college all-girls division at the Cheer for a Cure competition, defeating runner-up Canisius by almost 30 points.
“This is the first year for the competitive cheer program (at Gannon),” Foran said. “This was the first competition in program history.”
Teams were judged on difficulty and execution in the following events — motions, dance, stunts, pyramids and/or tosses, jumps and tumbling.
Teams also were scored on routine construction (transitions, formations and spacing) and crowd interaction (voice, showmanship and crowd appeal/leading).
“During the routine, I knew everything was hitting because of the reactions of the crowd,” Todd said. “Everyone was screaming, and I could see the look on our coach's face, which meant it was going well. Once we finished the routine, we all let out a huge scream because we were so overjoyed. Everything hit perfectly, and we did everything that we could. We definitely made Gannon proud that day.”
Proceeds from the Cheer for a Cure benefited the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The Lady Knights made and sold bow key chains as one of their fundraisers.
“We were able to raise over $500 for JDRF,” Todd said. “I couldn't be more proud of my teammates.”
Todd has been a cheerleader since she was 11, starting out with the Brentwood Dukes youth football program, then was a varsity cheerleader, under the guidance of head coach Jan Hubsch at Brentwood High School.
Todd was a member of Gannon's game-day cheer team during her freshman and sophomore years of college.
“After being accepted to Gannon, I tried out for the game-day team,” she said. “I cheered for football and men's basketball for two years. I also competed with an all-star co-ed open team, called Cheer Vibe, my freshman year here.
“Once I heard about the competitive team, I knew I couldn't miss the chance to be a part of it. After getting in contact and meeting our head coach, I was offered a spot for the 2013-2014 season.”
Although she also competed in swimming in high school, cheerleading has been at the forefront in Todd's life.
“There are many things that I love about cheerleading, but what I love most is what it has done for me,” she said. “It has taught me to be confident, have trust in other people and, most importantly, to believe in myself.
“Being a flyer or top girl, I put so much trust in my teammates that they will be there to catch me if I fall. I am basically putting my life in their hands. Cheerleading has taught me that if you have confidence not only in yourself but in others as well, anything is possible.”
Todd is a member of the Gannon University Student Respiratory Care Society, and Alpha Gamma Delta Social Sorority.
After graduating from college, she hopes to become a respiratory therapist/practitioner, specializing in pediatrics and neonatal care.
“My dream is to eventually work for Children's Hospital as a member of the Life Flight team,” she said.
The Lady Knights already have landed a spot in the National Cheerleaders Association college nationals to be held April 9-13 in Daytona Beach, Fla.
“Earning a bid in our first year as a program is a huge accomplishment. It's a great indicator that we have the ability to compete on a national level,” Foran said.
“The team has been focused on perfecting their technical skills and building strength and endurance, and their hard work really showed during our camp evaluation. We're looking forward to representing Gannon for the first time at this national event.”
Todd and her teammates are anxiously looking forward to competing in Florida.
“Our team received and accepted a bid to the NCA college nationals. This is a huge accomplished for us,” Todd said.
“I want to thank Gannon for adding this program, and for giving us this opportunity. And a special thank you to our coach, Meghan Foran, for everything she has done for us and for making this possible. We couldn't do it without her.”
Gannon's inaugural cheer season is scheduled to run through April.
“I can't wait to see what the rest of the season has in store for us,” Todd said.
Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or firstname.lastname@example.org.