BANGOR — The Central Aroostook Panthers performed high above the rest Saturday when they won their fifth Eastern-Western Maine Class D title in a row, a school record. Superb tumbling, high energy and ambitious stunts, including a tick tock, earned the Panthers a score of 125.5.
“It’s just amazing — beyond words,” said senior Panther Whitney Klein, who has been on the winning Class D team for four years. “I’m so glad we did it one more time. Our team is not just a team, we’re a family.”
Two weeks ago, Central Aroostook senior Patricia Donovan tore a ligament in her hip, and the team had to change the routine. Donovan had to sit out of Saturday’s competition, but she expressed pride for her teammates.
“We told [the team] we needed to sell this routine, and they did,” said Central Aroostook coach Sami Jo Allen, who attributes the Panthers’ repeat success to dedication and a strong team bond. “It’s a second family for sure. I text them good morning and let them know we care.”
With just three seniors on the squad, Central Aroostook looks to have a bright future.
Sophomore Colby Endy cheered front and center for much of the routine. His enthusiastic attitude and skilled tumbling gained a wild reaction from the crowd.
Central Aroostook is coached by Allen and assistant coach Janice Mosher. Team members are Alexis Bradbury, Lexie Brewer, Mariah Brewer, Jordan Canney, Donovan, Brittany Drost, Endy, Laken Kingsbury, Klein, Courtney Milliard, Shannon Scully and Kellie Stitham.
Below the Panthers, competition was tight.
The Woodland Dragons erupted from their huddle on the floor when they were announced the runner-up with a score of 111.2.
“Most of us are seniors and wanted to end this year right,” said Shelby Diadone, one of the nine seniors on the team. “We’re ready. We’re going to try for first at states. We’re going to improve everything we just did.”
Like Central Aroostook, Woodland’s most difficult stunt was the tick tock, a stunt in which the flyer switches legs while performing a liberty or other one-legged stunt.
“We tried to make everything harder this year,” said Marissa Mcgovern. “We pushed ourselves a lot.”
The Dragons haven’t finished second in the regional competitions since 1998. Many of the seniors on the team have been cheering together since fourth grade, and they’ve been waiting that long for this kind of recognition for their hard work.
Their coach, JoAnn McGovern, has been coaching them for nine years, which explains why the award ceremony was filled with extra-long hugs.
Woodland team members are Devian Allen, Heather Baker, Sarah Baker, Kimberly Carter, Kylee Lynn, Samantha Corbett, Diadone, Lauryn Fischer, Amber Gutierrez, Hope Howard, Brittany Leighton, Mcgovern, Scott Rhodes, Brittani Roussel, Mike Scarlett, Cody Shirley, Ingrid Subialder and Tammara Thomson.
Deer Isle-Stonington was similarly thrilled to earn third place (109.6 points) with a fast-paced routine of crowd-pleasing dance moves, successful tumbling and entertaining stunts.
The top six teams go on to compete in the state championships on Saturday, Feb. 11 at the Augusta Civic Center.
The other qualifying teams are Buckfield (105.6), Penobscot Valley of Howland (105.5) and Bangor Christian (98.3).
Other scores are: Washburn (97), Machias (96.4), Jonesport-Beals (94.6), Rangeley (84.9), Ashland (80.8) and Fort Fairfield (79.4).
As is tradition, the Panthers headed to Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Bangor to celebrate. For their fifth year in a row, they sat at a table with the winner’s plaque. And not too far up the road, the Dragons tucked in at Chili’s Grill & Bar.
For information about the state championships, visit www.mpa.cc.