Edwardsville grad Billings 'overwhelmed' to make UCF cheer squad

Edwardsville High School graduate Marcie Billings wasn’t expecting much out of her cheerleading tryout at the University of Central Florida.

“It was literally insane. Walking into it and seeing so many experienced people was humbling,” Billings said. “At Edwardsville, you know you are at the top. Everyone there is the best of the best.”

Three days later, Billings learned she was one of the best of the best.

Billings was one of two new members selected to join the University of Central Florida cheerleading program. An NCAA Division I program, the school is located in an eastern suburb 15 miles outside of Orlando.

“I’m super exciting,” Billings said. “It was a really tough process because the tryouts lasted four days. In those four days, I think we tried out for 36 hours. Only two new people made the team.”

Cuts were made at the end of each day. The first day included two rounds of cuts, including one an hour into tryouts.

At the end of the third day, Billings learned she made the team. The fourth day was the first practice for the team and its two newest members.

“I was overwhelmed. I wasn’t expecting to make it, especially since there weren’t many available spots on the team and they didn’t have any females graduating,” Billings said.

Had Billings not made the team, she still was going to attend Central Florida.

Before deciding on the suburban Orlando school, Billings was also looking at Texas Tech.

“I went and visited Central Florida back in February and I just had an amazing time. I felt very welcomed by the team. The whole environment was just so much better than what I had felt at Texas Tech,” Billings said.

This past January, the UCF cheerleading team finished fifth at the UCA National Championships in the Division IA cheer competition. It was the program’s 23rd top-five finish, including three national championships with the most recent in 2020.

“It’s a hard-working team. They have won national titles and the coaches there are amazing,” Billings said.

At EHS, Billings helped the Tigers to a ninth-place finish at the IHSA cheerleading state final competition in February. It was the program’s seventh top-10 finish.

Billings was a multiple All-Southwestern Conference selection during her prep cheer career.

“It’s been the best time that I have ever had. I started cheering my freshman year with no prior experience before high school. I fell in love with the sport,” Billings said.

Before cheerleading, track and field was the sport of choice for Billings.

In middle school at Trinity Lutheran, Billings was a state champion in the hurdles as a seventh-grader. She took second in the hurdles and fourth in the long jump as an eighth-grader.

For the Tigers as a junior, Billings earned a runner-up finish in the 100-meter hurdles to help the team to its first Southwestern Conference championship since 2006.

“I was leaning more towards track going into high school but then cheer came along,” Billing said. “I fell in love with it.”

In the classroom, Billings was a high honor roll student and Illinois State Scholar.