AUGUSTA, Maine — Teamwork is the undeniable key to success in cheerleading competitions.
A dozen members of the Sumner Memorial High School squad have been cheering together for the last three years. Saturday afternoon, they were rewarded for all the hard work.
Coach Monica Chipman’s Tigers were among the last of the 24 teams to compete, but it proved worth the wait as Sumner won the school’s first cheerleading state title.
The Eastern Maine champions scored 132.2 points to hold off runner-up Central of Corinth (130.1) to win Class C. Dexter finished third with 128.4 points in a sweep that will send three EM squads to the New England Championships March 20 in Providence, R.I.
“They actually all know how each other works,” said Chipman. “We just decided to step it up a level this year [in terms of difficulty] to see if we could really hit this routine.”
Houlton took fourth place with 125.0 points and Orono (124.1) placed fifth, while Western Maine champ Monmouth Academy was sixth (122.1), followed by Saint Dominic of Auburn (120.2) and Washington Academy of East Machias (120.0).
Rounding out the 12-team Class C field were Livermore Falls (109.1), Dirigo of Dixfield (109.1), Sacopee Valley of South Hiram (105.6) and Jay (101.0).
Poland Regional High won the Class B state title, scoring 146.8 points to edge runner-up Ellsworth (145.9), the Eastern Maine runner-up.
It was the second title in three years and the third overall for coach Katie Hebert’s Knights, who competed amidst an enthusiastic Class B field.
Eastern Maine champ Hermon took third place with 141.5 points and will join Poland and Ellsworth at the upcoming New Englands. Presque Isle (137.2) and Waterville (134) rounded out the top five.
John Bapst of Bangor (132.9 points) earned sixth place, followed by Wells (131.9), Mountain Valley of Rumford (130.9), Oak Hill of Sabattus (130.3), Medomak Valley of Waldoboro (129.9), Caribou (127.5), and Leavitt of Turner Center (126.6).
In the Class C competition, Sumner’s veterans enabled them to secure the crown.
The Tigers also received a boost from the likes of their only senior and male team member, Jacob Backman. He had served as the team manager the previous two years.
“They talked me into cheering, so I said I might as well try it,” Backman said. “The reason that I didn’t cheer last year is that I didn’t know if I could tumble … But I took gymnastics this summer and I got my tuck and stuff and I said I’ll give it a try.”
Captain Jalisa Patten was among a contingent of juniors that put the Tigers over the top. That class also includes Haley Sandstrom, Brianna Bishko, Jordan Rivers, Maria Lockhart, Emily Ingalls, Brooke Raynor, Jordan Knowles, Sarah Frost, Ashtyn Thomas, Kelsey Martin and Whitney Doughty.
The chemistry developed over three years was evident as Sumner impressed the judges with a nice series of lifts and spin dismounts, good synchronization in its dancing and a solid, enthusiastic finish.
Most of that came after an early fall that wound up not resulting in a deduction.
“That’s a really important thing to remember in cheering: Even if there’s some kind of mistake, you have to keep going, you have to pretend like it didn’t happen and keep up your spirit,” Patten said.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy,” she added.
Sumner also got contributions from sophomore Ashley Andrews and freshmen Josie Barker and Alexandria Tracy.
The Central Red Devils, who finished fourth at the regionals, responded by making a serious challenge for the state title.
“This is the first time we’ve nailed it [the routine] all season long and it’s been well overdue, but I’m just so proud of them and I’m honored to be their coach,” said Christy Strout.
“When we got into practice and I saw the makeup of my girls and I saw how hard they worked, I thought that if we did it the way it needed to be done yes, we could be here,” she said.
In Class B, Poland distinguished itself with its performance — and its distinctive neon green hair ribbons. The Knights’ fans donned T-shirts of the same color in a gesture of solidarity.
Poland rattled off a busy, high-energy routine that included high throws, plenty of jumps, an excellent series of lifts and a well-choreographed dance segment.
“Amazing. I’m so proud of them,” said coach Katie Hebert.
“They’re not really like a team. They work together. They’re more like a family,” she added.
Captain Sophie Geelhoed was the only senior on a squad that featured Olivia Doyer, Shelby Brown, Billy Jo Morrison, Tyler Davidson, Stephanie Campbell, Brianna Morris, Abby Strout, Colleen Murphy and Alycia Walsh, Paige Brousseau, Heidi Chipman, Kaitlyn Roy, Mikala Hayes, Emily Briggs, Haley Hebert and Krysta Martin.
“It was one of the best performances we’ve had and it felt really good,” Geelhoed said.