COLUMBIA — Leading more than 65,000 fans takes coordination and trust. Members of the MU cheerleading squad have developed a close relationship with each other as they've led fans on game days.
The relationship has grown with time. The squad spends about 15 hours a week together for practices and rally events during the days leading up to football games, four-year member Arin Hennessy said.
The relationship also has grown with adversity. Suzy Thompson, the squad's coach, was diagnosed with breast cancer last fall. The team rallied around her.
“(The squad) is our family, and Coach is like our mom,” Hennessy said. “It’s our network and our support system."
The cheerleaders wore pink rings to show Thompson they were thinking about her throughout her struggle with cancer. Thompson said she made it through treatment with the support of her squad.
Hennessy, a biology major, called the relationship symbiotic. After her grandfather died, she went to Thompson for support. On and off the field, the cheerleaders have learned to support one another and their coach.