BANGOR — For the Houlton High School varsity cheering team, the 2010-11 season was summed up in a fortune cookie.
“I got a fortune in a cookie earlier this season which said ‘practice for the best and prepare for the worst,'” said Houlton co-coach Shari Good.
Talk about nailing it.
As perfectly as that fortune fits the Shiretowners, it can also be the unofficial team mantra, motto, bumper sticker, and T-shirt for Hermon High School.
The 2010-11 season was a study in adversity and attrition for both the Hawks and Shires, but neither injuries, illnesses, or even members quitting the team in midseason failed to keep them from returning to the top of the state’s cheerleading heap.
Despite fielding a “full” team of 10 girls — an uncharacteristically low number for a squad coached by Kristie Reed — on the Bangor Auditorium mat Saturday morning, Hermon’s Hawks delivered another performance without peer and came away with their second Class B state title in three years.
The Hawks made it look relatively easy as they scored 147 points to create a comfortable margin over runner-up Ellsworth, which scored 142.3 points. It was a repeat of the same order the teams finished at the Eastern regional meet. West champ Medomak Valley of Waldoboro finished third with 138.6 and Leavitt of Turner was fourth at 134.7.
Things broke down similarly in Class C, where Houlton scored 140.1 to outpace second-place Orono (135.5). Third went to defending state champ Sumner of East Sullivan at 134.2 and Western champion Monmouth Academy was fourth with 129.
The top three teams in each class are eligible to complete in the New England Spirit Championships in Providence, R.I., March. 19.
Both Hermon and Houlton could rightly claim the title of team adversity as well as both overcame it to win.
“We lost a girl a week before Easterns and put in an alternate in for her after reworking the whole routine, and we lost our main senior who was at the point of most of our stunts because she had her appendix taken out last Saturday, and put in another alternate,” said Houlton co-coach Julie Dunn. “They’ve overcome a lot to get here.”
While she was unable to compete, Marcy Hernandez, one of six Shire seniors, still came in full uniform to cheer on her teammates.
“I just got my appendix out, but I wouldn’t miss being here,” said Hernandez, who said she should be able to compete at New Englands. “We’re like a family and everybody’s best friends, so I had to be here.”
Houlton’s first state title since 2006 and fifth overall was due largely to depth and talent.
“When we had to have an alternate fill in a week before Easterns, she knew the routine better than some of the people already competing,” said senior Taylor Lindsay. “When I found out Marcy had to have surgery, I was like ‘Why are we even going to states? I mean, how are we going to do this?’ but it really showed what can happen if you don’t give up.”
This is Hermon’s third overall state title and all have come over the last five years.
“We’ve had some injuries and we don’t have a JV program, so we kept more girls on varsity,” said Reed.
That was fortunate as the extra depth came in handy.
“Originally we had 14 competing, but one of my fliers went down with injury early, another blew out her knee and had surgery, and two quit,” Reed explained. “The key was their attitudes. It’s harder to do stunts and impress judges with fewer people, but this group really had energy and hit their routine every time they performed.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a team that did that, so the confidence just kept building for them.”
Hermon’s “surviving” team members include lone senior Meagan Dearborn, Katie Reynosa, Alivia Brown, Kaitlinn Turner, Alexis Pelkey, Casie Frederick, Rayshell Gagne, Nicole Robinson, Ashley Cyr, Kelsey Small, Colleen Cropley, Lacey Austin, Courtney Applebee, Emilie Dullas, Catherine McElvain, Destinee Knight, Brianna Savoy, and Taylor Smith.
“You have to go out there with double the excitement and double the spirit, and look twice as big as you really are,” said Dearborn said of the smaller squad approach. “And compared to other teams I’ve been on, I’ve never seen a group of girls that’s so close. There are no cliques. We are our own clique and it definitely shows on the mat.”
Houlton’s team members are Lindsay, Hernandez, Brandon Murphy, Jen Farrar, Danielle Daigle, Maryah Ranck, Kaycee McClure, Erynne Howland, Dakota Jenkins, Melissa Peabody, Crystal Nason, Marguerite Russell, Kristen Farwell, Katelynn McClure, Raeleanna Brooker, Emily Dee, Lauren Bragan, Jacyln Hodgkins, Taylor Forest, Ashley McNinch, Sarah Bouchard, Lizzie Flint and Jessica Thorne.
The rest the teams and their order of finish in Class B was as follows: 5. Presque Isle (132.3 points), 6. Wells (132), 7. John Bapst of Bangor (131.7), 8. Lisbon (130.3), 9. Waterville (121.6), 10. Mountain Valley of Rumford 126.4, 11. Poland (120.5), and 12. Nokomis of Newport (121.6).
The rest of the Class C order was as follows: 5. Dexter (126), 6. Central of Corinth (122.8), 7. Saint Dominic (117.3), 8. Jay (114.6), 9. Madison (112.4), 10. Livermore Falls (111.5), 11. Boothbay (94.7), 12. Penobscot Valley of Howland (92.1).