BANGOR — The Ellsworth Eagles swooped in to snatch up the Class B Eastern Maine cheerleading title, with the Hermon Hawks close on their tail Saturday at the Bangor Auditorium.
Ellsworth High School earned 145.7 points with a strong, energetic routine topped with a flawless pyramid. The Hermon Hawks, last year’s winner, scored 143 with teamwide tumbling and ambitious stunts.
The Eagles were performing without two of their lead fliers, Emma Sweeny and Heather Holt, who both broke a hand prior to the competition. They revised their routine just 36 hours before entering the auditorium. Two new flyers, Morgan Barkhouse and Mackenzie Myers, stepped up to the challenge.
“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,” said senior Eagle Katherine Spurgeon with a raise of her eyebrow as she stood holding her first-place medal with fellow seniors Katie Whitney and Marissa Boynton. “It’s all about determination. If you really want something, you can achieve it.”
The team excited the crowd from the beginning, when five girls executed a difficult tumbling pass in unison — a round-off, back handspring, back tuck.
Their stunts included graceful scorpions, arabesques, heel stretches, basket tosses and hitches.
Admiring the performance, the Eagles’ enthusiastic fans whooped and hollered in the stands. When the mix of pop music faded to silence, team members stumbled off the floor, tangled up in embraces. Happy tears were shed.
Ellsworth is coached by Courtney Wright and Nikki Chan. Team members are Barkhouse, Boynton, Mariah Brown, Karla Butler, Katey Curtis, Miranda Davis, Kathryn Dickens, Brittany Handy, Holt, Anna Jordan, Brittany Moulton, Myers, Bailey Neale, Spurgeon, Sweeny, Whitney and Cristin Wright.
The second team to perform, the Eagles set the bar high.
Teams to follow rose to the challenge.
The six top teams go on to compete in the state championships on Saturday, Feb. 11, at the Augusta Civic Center.
Third place went to John Bapst Memorial High School of Bangor (130.6). Their energy-packed routine included an ambitious stunt called the bow and arrow that requires excellent flexibility. By the end of their routine, the team and coach, Eva Deans, were jumping up and down with excitement.
Following the Crusaders were Old Town (124.7), Mount Desert Island (112.8) and Presque Isle (112.8), all three with strong routines.
Teams that did not qualify for the state championships were Nokomis of Newport (111.6), Caribou (106.7), Waterville (105), Washington Academy of East Machias (101), Foxcroft Academy (96.1), Oceanside of Rockland (95.5), Mount View of Thorndike (93.6) and Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield (82.9).
For the past five years, the state championship has been won, back and forth, by Hermon and Poland.
“It’s not the best feeling in the world,” said Hermon senior Casie Frederick of winning second place,” but we are so proud of Ellsworth. We can use this to add fuel to work a little harder and bring it to states.”
The talented 22-person squad doesn’t plan to change much in its routine between now and the state championship. The next two weeks of practice will be used for polishing stunts and gaining confidence.
Hermon coach Kristie Reed pointed out that there were a few shaky spots in Saturday’s routine.
“You always go back and you just keep working at it,” said Reed. “My hat’s off to Ellsworth. We certainly will be back working it really hard.”
Hermon’s team members are Courtney Applebee, Lacey Austin, Olivia Brown, Ashley Cyr, Danielle Dennison, Emilie Dullas, Frederick, Olivia Guiggey, Megan Howes, Destinee Knight, Catherine McElvain, Alisa Pelkey, Sarah Perley, Laura Phipps, Katherine Reynosa, Briana Savoy, Kelsey Small, Katrina Smith, Taylor Smith, Brittany St. Pierre, Kaitlinn Turner and Tiffany Turner.
For information on the state cheering championships, visit www.mpa.cc.
Correction: An early version of this story mistakenly referenced John Bapst Memorial High School as John Bapst Academy.