BANGOR, Maine — Aimee Conner admitted she was a bit shocked when she and her Bangor High cheerleading teammates had learned they were Eastern Maine Class A champions at the Jan. 23 regionals.
After all, the Rams and other teams have played the bridesmaid role to cheering power Lewiston over the last few years.
“I was so surprised because we’ve been behind Lewiston, and Lewiston’s like the top team to always beat, and when they said Lewiston’s score, I was like, oh my God we did not just do that,” Conner said before practice Monday night.
Conner, one of three Rams’ seniors, will aim for the program’s first state championship at Saturday’s state competition at the Augusta Civic Center.
Action gets under way at 10 a.m. with the 12 Class A squads and six Class D schools performing, and awards will be held at approximately 12:15.
The Class C and B competition begins at 2:30 p.m.
Biddeford is the reigning state champ in Class A, while Hermon is bidding for its third Class B title in four years.
Saint Dominic of Auburn won in Class C a year ago while Central Aroostook of Mars Hill has won the last two in Class D.
Bangor has not won a state championship since the Maine Principals’ Association started sanctioning the competitions in 1988, and the 2007 Brewer squad was the only school north of Augusta to win such honors.
So, any more nerves to go with the potential excitement?
“Probably both,” said senior Hanya Phillips. “I’m very nervous and excited [but] we’re all pumped.”
The Rams pieced together a hardworking routine to earn their regional title, and the 20-member squad had a chance to perform it again last weekend at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference meet, in which they finished second to Lewiston.
The KVAC meet was originally slated for Jan. 18, but was postponed due to snow.
After going through midterm exams and having multiple team members dealing with colds, Bangor was happy with that effort, too.
“We all weren’t feeling very well on Saturday so it was like our off-competition,” Phillips said. “But other than that, we hit a pretty good routine.”
The Rams’ routine features a little bit of everything — dancing and tumbling, high energy and difficult stunts — but it’s nonstop, literally, for 2 minutes, 48 seconds. Thus, it took coach Stephanie Crane’s squad a little time to piece it together earlier this winter.
“It was pretty difficult [to learn],” Phillips said “We usually had to go through our first half of the routine and stop and then take a breather and go through the second half.”
She added it also requires 100 percent focus.
“You have to constantly be thinking of the counts, what motions go where, where you’re going to next,” Phillips said. “You have to keep your body tight at all times and during all that you have to keep a smile on your face.”
Conner, Phillips and Bree Shaw are Bangor’s tri-captains, and Conner said to expect more difficult stunting on Saturday.
“All of our basket tosses are really high, and our flyers are pretty confident in what they’re doing,” said Conner.
The rest of Bangor’s team includes Sarah Conner, Bailey Dunham, Collin Hamel, Maddie Langley, Jenna Marshall, Danielle Michaud, Elizabeth York, Mercedes Goodine, Emma Hardy, Kylie Jacobs, Amanda Long, Cailee Mercier, Emily Meucci, Miranda Monk, Alicia Stairs, Olivia Whitten, Annie Hetterman and Carolyn Stacy.
The Bangor area will be well-represented as Hampden Academy, co-coached by Annie Smith and Alise Jenkins, and Brewer, coached by Christina Bush, are also competing.
Class B: Hermon, which also has three seniors in Abbe Curtis, Makelle Jarvis and Cortney Hawes, is 3-for-3 so far this winter, having won the PVC, Big East and Class B regional competitions.
First-year coach Kristie Reed, who coached Brewer to its state title in ’07, said after regionals she didn’t plan on tweaking to the Hawks’ difficult routine.
Hermon’s other team members are Meagan Dearborn and Kasey Fratini, Ashley Cyr, Brianna Savoy, Casie Frederick, Jasmine St. Pierre, Katelyn Lugdon, Kelsey Small, Courtney Applebee, Catherine McElvain, Becca Watson, Destinee Knight and Katie Reynosa.
Class C: First-time regional champion Sumner of East Sullivan is hoping for similar success at states, while Houlton looked strong in its runner-up performance at regionals.
Coach Monica Chipman’s lone senior is Jacob Backman while the Tigers also feature 12 juniors.
The remainder of Sumner’s roster consists of Ashley Andrews, Josie Barker, Brianna Bishko, Whitney Doughty, Sarah Frost, Emily Ingalls, Jordyn Knowles, Maria Lockhart, Kelsey Martin, Brooke Raynor, Jordan Rivers, Ashtyn Thomas and Alexandria Tracy.
Class D: Central Aroostook appears to be the favorite again, coming off its third consecutive regional crown.
The Panthers, coached by Sami Jo Allen, feature three seniors in Sarah Michaud, Rachel Donovan and Brittany Moser.
The other members of the team are Heather Bell, Lexie Brewer, Mariah Brewer, Kayla Demoura, Kyle Donahue, Patricia Donovan, Laken Kingsbury, Whitney Klein, Brittni Mosher, Genevive Parker and Kellie Stitham.