The Deland High School varsity cheerleading team took home first place in their division Jan. 28 at the Nix Thomas Memorial HHQ Competition.
The memorial competition was co-hosted by DeLand High School and Seabreeze High School in honor of Nixolas Thomas, a UCF cheerleader who coached hundreds of Volusia County kids, including the DeLand High Coed Cheer competition team. He passed away in June 2022 right before the team was set to attend cheer camp.
For those he worked with, Nix Thomas was more than just a coach.
“Not only was he an amazing coach, but it was the little things that happened outside of practice that meant so much more,” DeLand High School varsity cheerleader Elyse Wilgers told The Beacon. “Even outside of practice, he was there for me. Sending me reminders to eat, keeping me on track with grades and constantly checking up on everyone. Nix was so much more than a coach. He was a friend, a positive influence, and a dependable shoulder to cry on.”
DeLand High School varsity cheerleader Payton Hart felt similarly about her former coach.
“He was my coach for the past four years,” she said. “He was just a positive aspect. And he’s always been there as just a friend, or a coach or whatever we needed.”
It meant everything to the team to be able to cheer in their coach’s honor.
“The Nix Memorial Competition was a chance to showcase our routine, magnifying the impact he made on the team when he was with us and after he was gone,” Wilgers said. “After performing a flawless routine, the team was overwhelmed with emotion. Knowing that we put everything out on the mat and made him proud was an unearthly feeling that I would give anything to experience again.”
Nix Thomas’ coaching was the team’s momentum, but his memory provided the carry-through.
“His confidence is fueling them for sure,” DeLand High School varsity coach Liza Morgan said.
After their performance, there were tears from everyone.
“[His mom] was just in tears because she was just so proud of us and that we just resembled him so well in the way that we performed,” Hart said.
Nix Thomas’ mother, Meri Thomas, was honored by the number of teams that took part in the competition. Overall, 37 teams participated.
“[It was] very humbling and honorable to hear the stories of how he impacted so many of them — very touching, and heartwarming. And I couldn’t be more thankful and grateful that a child I created affected so many people,” Meri Thomas said.
The Thomas family founded the Nix Thomas HHQ Foundation to continue Nix’s legacy of helping people.
“My son was known for that if he saw somebody with no shoes, or that the family couldn’t afford shoes, he would buy them shoes from his paycheck,” Meri Thomas told The Beacon.
To continue his legacy, the foundation is funding three scholarships in Nix Thomas’ name, which a portion of the memorial competition’s proceeds went toward. The foundation is funding the EAA Chapter 1240 Pilot Training Scholarship, the UCF Cheerleading Scholarship and the Double Down Athletics Scholarship.
HHQ stands for the motto Nix Thomas lived by: stay hungry, humble and quiet. During his time as a coach, he taught those he coached to live by those three words too.
“They’ve kind of learned just to stay humble and stay hungry while working, whether that’s in the classroom or on the mat. They just have really focused on loving each other and being engaged in every moment,” Morgan said.
As the DeLand High School varsity cheerleading team continues their season, they will bring Nix Thomas’ memory with them to nationals and beyond.