Jenny Marks has just started her 23 consecutive season coaching Cardinal Gibbons cheerleaders, which makes her one of the longest-serving varsity coaches in the school’s history. In that time, she has led the team through three national titles and over 10 state championships.
She has accomplished all that while holding down a full-time job and being a mom to five children, who range in age from 5 to 12. Today, her accomplishments garnered her recognition on Good Morning America’s Make Your Monday segment.
“She has unconditional love for her family and her faith, and that translates to 100 percent devotion to our cheerleaders and our school. She is a model for all of us,” said Principal Nancy Barkan.
After nearly two weeks of behind-the-scenes planning, the filming took place early this morning (September 9) at Marks’ home in Raleigh. A group of Gibbons cheerleaders and administrators, including Principal Nancy Barkan, along with cheerleaders from NC State, Marks’ alma mater, as well as from the Carolina Panthers, gathered on Marks’ lawn. They stood ready to cheer Marks on when she opened her front door, and the camera crew filmed her surprise.
At that moment, Marks was clearly shocked and near tears. Surrounding her, the crowd held signs and shouted, “We Love Jenny” as Good Morning America communicated the scene to millions of viewers.
Marks’ husband, Taylor, and their five children were also at the scene and beamed with pride for the woman at the center of their lives. “We are proud of her and all that she has accomplished,” 12-year-old Ava Marks said of her mother.
Marks, a former cheerleader at Apex High School and NC State, has also been central to life at Gibbons. She has been both a stable force behind the school’s nationally-recognized cheerleading team and a role model for a generation of girls. A woman of strong faith Marks takes even more satisfaction in preparing high-school-aged girls for life than she does in winning titles and championships.
Of her commitment to Cardinal Gibbons, Principal Barkan said: “Jenny Marks has been serving Cardinal Gibbons as cheerleading coach for 23 years, and we are blessed to have her.
“She has unconditional love for her family and her faith, and that translates to 100 percent devotion to our cheerleaders and our school. She is a model for all of us.”
Her cheerleaders agree. “She has inspired me from day one,” said Riley Mae Rhodes ’20, team captain. “She knows when to comfort you but also when to push you.”
What is one lesson she has learned from Marks? “You are capable of way more than you think you are capable of,” Rhodes said.
Asked to describe their coach, one after another of the cheerleaders called Marks determined, passionate, or encouraging.
Gibbons alumna Paige Greener ’19, now a varsity cheerleader for NC State, agreed and added: “She has been my biggest inspiration.”
For Marks coaching has enabled her “to see young girls develop mentally, physically, and spiritually…,” she said in an interview with WRAL, which led to the Good Morning America spot. “These girls inspire me daily, and I love being able to help them become better people and athletes.”
Dean Monroe, Director of Athletic Leadership and Legacy at Gibbons, hired Marks those many years ago because “it was evident she was highly passionate about the sport and had the desire and energy to continue to build the program.”
“We are so fortunate, ”he added, “that she stayed with us and impacted and touched the lives of so many young women.”