BANGOR — With the magnitude of the moment quickly settling in, Central Aroostook senior Kyle Donahue was brought to tears.
“This is my fourth year of cheering, and all four years we’re the regional champions,” an emotional Donahue said after the Panthers from Mars Hill continued their Class D cheerleading dynasty with their fourth consecutive regional championship at the Bangor Auditorium Saturday morning.
Coach Sami-Jo Allen’s squad tallied 127.5 points to outdistance six other teams in the East-West competition, with Jonesport-Beals finishing second with 108.1 points and Deer Isle-Stonington third with 106.1.
The top six teams advanced to the Feb. 12 state championships, also in Bangor, so that means Machias (101.7), Rangeley (96.7) and Buckfield (85.3) are all moving on.
Houlton, which finished second in the EM Class C regionals last winter, went on to take the gold this time around with 134.1 points while Orono finished second with 131.6.
Rounding out the state qualifiers were Central of Corinth (131.1), defending state and regional champion Sumner of East Sullivan (129.1), Dexter (123.9) and Penobscot Valley of Howland (105.9).
In Class D, the Panthers entered the competition with high hopes and with understandable nerves, as some squad members have never experienced a competition of this caliber.
“We’re very young, I have five that did not cheer last year,” Allen said.
But the leadership of Donahue and co-captain Whitney Klein proved instrumental, as Central Aroostook featured a routine that had clean stunts, high basket tossing and a double-down twist.
“It feels awesome (to win) four years in a row, I don’t know what teams can actually say that,” said Klein, a junior. “We have like six new people and they’re doing amazing.”
One of those newcomers is Central Aroostook’s only other senior, Gabrielle Brewer.
“She’s never cheered before, for her to come out and do what she did today, I’m so proud of her,” Donahue said.
Donahue and Colby Endy also wowed the judges and the audience with their tumbling skills.
Endy was also on the big stage for the first time as a freshman, and his back-hand springs were an instrumental piece to Central Aroostook’s routine.
“He’s an awesome tumbler,” Klein said.
Rounding out the Panthers’ roster are Alexis Bradbury, Lexie Brewer, Patricia Donovan, Brittany Drost, Megan King, Laken Kingsbury and Kellie Stitham.
Comprising Jonesport-Beals’ second-place squad are Justina and Maegan Alley, Holly Archer, Brooke and Desiree Beal, Paiden Carver, Sierra Fagonde, Jen Grady, Kayla Hooper, Kelsey Jones, Lora Kilton, Sarah Merchant and Sarah Milliken.
In Class C, Houlton had the crowd on its feet right from the get-go with its 1990’s-themed routine that featured an upbeat version of Celine Dion’s “My heart will go on.”
“We wanted to (have) a different vibe (because) everybody likes upbeat music,” said Houlton senior Marcy Hernandez, one of five Shiretowner seniors.
It didn’t hurt that the Shiretowners’ stunting and tumbling was spot-on, with Brandon Murphy showcasing his tumbling skills.
Houlton’s stunts featured five flyers, a couple of double-down twists, and a dismount off a five-person pyramid.
“When we came off we were all screaming,” said Hernandez. “We were hitting our stunts, we were all proud of each other, hugging each other.”
The Shiretowners feature a veteran nucleus this winter, and had a goal of getting back to the top of Eastern Maine in November.
“It’s a dream for me, to win my senior year (at) Easterns, and now I just want to go all the way and take it to states,” said Hernandez.
The dismount off the pyramid was a technique that Houlton added just a couple weeks ago, and the Shires plan on working on that some more leading up to states.
“We really need to make our stunts solid, so that we know we can hit them every single time,” Hernandez said.
Houlton also got the crowd involved during its mid-routine cheer, and the Shires had strong energy.
Rounding out their roster are Sarah Bouchard, Lauren Bragan, Danielle Daigle, Emily Dee, Jenifer Farrar, Kristen Farwell, Elizabeth Flint, Taylor Forest, Jaclyn Hodgkins, Erynne Howland, Dakota Jenkins, Taylor Lindsay, Katelynn McClure, Kaycee McClure, Ashley McNich, Crystal Nason, Melissa Peabody, Marguerite Russell, Jessica Thorne and Mikaela Tuttle.
Orono’s runner-up squad consists of Mindy Adams, Gage Alley, Emily Carr, Ailee Cookson, Dustin and Madison Dube, Sarah Gagnon, Zach Haining, Zamantha Hanson, Lexi Haskell, Maisie Hurd, Jessica Miller, Whitney Moores, Brianna Murray, Jessica Nickerson, Chad Orn, Riki-Lynn Theriault, Jillian Tuell, Bridget Vinal and Emelynn Violette.