AUGUSTA, Maine — Last year, those excruciating seconds leading up to the announcement of which team was runner-up and which was winner left Bangor High School’s cheerleading team a bit disappointed.
Sure, they were excited about going from sixth the previous year to second behind cheering power Lewiston, but they were hoping for that elusive title.
Saturday afternoon at the Augusta Civic Center, the Rams again had to endure some excruciatingly suspenseful moments before the big announcement, but this time around they weren’t disappointed.
The Rams were the last to hear their score of 149 points, but after hearing two-time defending regional champ Lewiston announced as runner-up with 147.7 points, they knew they’d finally put together a first-place routine to win the Eastern Maine Class A title.
“Coach told us our score, so when they announced Lewiston’s and it wasn’t ours, we knew we’d won,” said senior tri-captain Hanya Phillips. “I can’t even explain it in words because it’s so important to me. I am, like, a cheer freak. It’s just so rewarding.”
Bangor’s routine was frenetic, active and multi-faceted from the outset. The 19 girls and one boy were doing something each second as they utilized multiple stunts such as basket tosses, scorpions, arabesques and two-tiered pyramids.
Only six of Bangor’s team members are not tumblers, but it looked like they all were.
“That was the plan. We added a lot of tumbling in the beginning to make sure we got a lot of it taken care of first, and it just goes from there,” said Bangor coach Stephanie Crane. “The routine just does not stop.
“I tell them it’s 2 minutes and 48 seconds. You can breathe at 2 minutes, 49 seconds.”
The top six teams advance to the state championship in Augusta on Feb. 6. Those select six are Bangor, Lewiston, Mt. Blue of Farmington (132 points), Lawrence of Fairfield (123.2), Hampden Academy (121.7) and Brewer (121.7).
The fifth-place tie between Brewer and Hampden was broken by deductions. Hampden, the team with fewer penalty points, won the tiebreaker.
Bangor’s team members are senior captains Phillips, Aimee Conner and Bree Shaw; juniors Sarah Conner, Bailey Dunham, Collin Hamel, Maddie Langley, Jenna Marshall, Danielle Michaud and Elizabeth York; sophomores Mercedes Goodine, Emma Hardy, Kylie Jacobs, Amanda Long, Cailee Mercier, Emily Meucci, Miranda Monk, Alicia Stairs and Olivia Whitten; and freshmen Annie Hetterman and Carolyn Stacy.
This was Bangor’s most veteran lineup in recent years.
“It let’s us be more comfortable with each other because we’re older and have done this together so long now,” said Aimee Conner. “It’s the best feeling, and it’s almost more relief than celebration. It’s a lot of work and commitment. People have no idea.”
Lewiston coach Lynette Morency does.
“Honestly, this is what my team needs. We needed a reality check because Lewiston usually comes in here and kicks butt,” she said. “The thing is, you have to work to do it.”
Like Bangor, Morency’s team has been wracked by colds and the flu for the last week, and had not been able to tune up for Saturday’s regional since her conference championship meet was postponed by snow. Unlike the Rams, her team is shorter on experience and leadership with seven freshmen.
Hampden advanced despite having to stop its routine with eight seconds remaining after one team member became ill during the routine. Officials stopped the routine so the girl could get medical help, then allowed the team to finish from the spot it was stopped.
“She hadn’t been feeling well for a couple days and was really feeling bad all day Friday,” said Broncos co-coach Annie Smith. “I think it’s a combination of having a flu bug and the nerves and excitement of today.”
“They overcame this and she showed a lot of [perseverance] to go through that and have us still finish and qualify for states,” said co-coach Alise Jenkins. “She was just nervous and upset. I think the embarrassment was the worst part of it.”