BANGOR, Maine — The 2,500 or so fans at Saturday morning’s Classes B and C state cheerleading championships thought they’d seen everything by the time all but the last of the 24 teams competing had performed their routines.
But the Hermon Hawks showed them they hadn’t seen anything yet.
Hermon’s 18-member squad executed its unique, challenging and intricate routine with such energy, confidence and gusto, even a five-point deduction for a faulty landing in a stunt failed to keep it from earning the highest score of the combined meet: 152.9 points.
The Hawks finished comfortably ahead of runner-up John Bapst of Bangor, which scored 144, and third-place Waterville (143.2) to win their second Class B state crown in the last three years and cap an unprecedented sweep of all four championship meets (Penobscot Valley Conference Big School, Big East, Eastern Maine and state).
“Nobody at our school’s ever won all four meets before, so we got to make history and go out with a bang as seniors,” said Jody Demmons, one of five senior captains on Hermon’s team.
In the Class C finals, Eastern Maine champ Dexter bettered its regional score by almost eight points but still finished third overall with 128.3. Saint Dominic of Lewiston won its first state crown since 2005 with a score of 134.5 and Monmouth Academy finished second with 131.
“I think the best we’ve done here is maybe seventh before today, and we still came in first among the Eastern teams,” said Dexter coach Anne Miller. “We’re very, very proud of that.”
The top three teams in each class are eligible to compete at the New England championships on March 21 at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
In Class B, Hermon has the most tumblers it’s ever had on the squad and head coach Lisa Pratt took full advantage in the Hawks’ multi-faceted, stunt-laden routine.
She incorporated lifts and stunts with falling dismounts; dual pyramids; a step-over stunt during a multi-tiered lift that was followed by a team cheer, three basket catches, a team tumbling exhibition, three arabesques involving spinning dismounts, and a complex “leapfrog” type of stunt that stole the show and served as the routine’s finale.
The motion section stunt featured a flyer executing a roundoff back handspring into a ball position and landing into the midst of a pyramid, and jumping over a teammate on the pyramid.
“That last pyramid is really hard: Catching a girl in the air, popping them over, and then having enough energy to throw them up and down and catch them again,” Pratt said. “We just banged that out all week, and it was just perfect today.”
Pratt said the idea for the tricky routine was born more than a year ago.
“She goes in and then leaps over another girl to go into the group. We went to a camp a year ago, saw it and tried to do it, but it never really worked,” she explained. “This year, the girls really wanted to do it.”
Senior captain Kayla Whittemore said it all started with teamwork.
“We all get along really well and there’s no drama,” Whittemore explained. “Having multiple seniors helped us, too, with leadership. It’s all about communication with the girls, the leaders and our coaches.”
The hardest part for the Hawks may have been the long wait to perform.
“I think being last in this was both good and bad. Bad because we had to sit around and wait and good because the girls had something to prove and make sure the last three wins we’ve had weren’t a fluke,” Pratt said. “They wanted to go out and get this routine and we really hadn’t hit it until today.”
Hermon’s team members are Whittemore, Demmons, Rayshell Gagnon, Casie Frederick, MacKenzie Reynolds, Rachel Taggart, Katelyn Lugdon, Kyla Whittemore, Kelsey Small, Brianna Savoy, Cortney Hawes, Meagan Dearborn, Abbe Curtis, Jasmine St. Pierre, Makelle Jarvis, Kayla Pelletier, Kasey Fratini and Kelsey Carmichael, who seamlessly stepped in two days before the Eastern Maine finals after Fratini injured her knee.
“Fourteen of our 16 performing girls are tumblers and the two who don’t we make look like they do,” Pratt said. “Having so many really lets us put ourselves more out there and be much more active.”
In Class C, Dexter continued its incremental improvement and learned a few things along the way.
“The thing we’ve been working really hard the last couple years is gymnastics,” said Miller. “The teams we’re competing against, especially in the west, have half their team tumbling or more.
“We only have four this year, but we’d like to have at least half a team of them.”