LEWISTON, Maine — The Planet Cheer Galaxy All-Star Cheering Team has been moving up through the cheering circuits over the years as it became more proficient in its routines, and this year the team’s head coach, Deneka Deletetsky, decided the squad was ready for the top level.
The team won its National Cheerleaders Association All-Star Nationals division on March 3, the first time a Maine team has won an NCA national championship.
“The win was amazing,” said Deletetsky. “To have a shot was something we never expected.”
When she signed up the team for the March 2-3 NCA Nationals in Dallas, her plan was to get the team adjusted to the experience and prepared mentally for future trips.
Little did she realize how soon that future would come.
There were only three teams in the Galaxy’s division — Level 5 large, restricted, coed, small gym. Level 5 is the highest level for high school-age performers, large because they had more than 20 performers, coed rather than all girls, restricted because they had most of the skills except some tumbling, and small gym because Planet Cheer has 75 or fewer registered all-star athletes.
When Deletetsky signed up, there were more than 50 teams in the division. The NCA started splitting the division, and most others as well, because the number of teams would have been unmanageable in most divisions.
When the NCA was done, it had 995 teams with 22,000 cheerers spread among approximately 125 divisions, some with as few as two teams and others with as many as 14.
But to Deletetsky it’s all about the performance, and her cheerers have been improving steadily.
“They have less mistakes and more confidence,” she said.
Planet Cheer Galaxy scored a blended score of 87.40 (25 percent of the Day 1 score plus 75 percent of the Day 2 score) with Cheer Texas of Amarillo second at 87.07 and Planet Cheer Eclipse of Forney, Texas, third at 86.08.
The team’s biggest improvement has been in its tumbling skills, including adding a full-twist stunt that the team needed to perform in order to reach Level 5.
“These kids are extremely dedicated,” said Deletetsky.
The dedication shows in the fact that team members are coming to practice at the Fortier Family Cheer Center twice a week from all over central and southern Maine, including Bangor, Dexter, Westbrook and Berwick as well as the Lewiston-Auburn area.
“I feel very fortunate that we have that kind of commitment,” Deletetsky said.
The Galaxy, which has been practicing together since August, was struck by the injury bug twice just before it left for Dallas.
“A week before we left, one girl dislocated an elbow,” said Deletetsky, “then the next day another girl broke her hand in two places.”
She was able to find two replacements by getting one girl who had worked with them before and by promoting one from a lower-level team.
“They rose to the challenge and did it,” Deletetsky said. “To do it with two new people, it was amazing.”
She credits the team’s conditioning program, including workouts adapted from other sports, with keeping the team healthy and making it easier to plug people in without missing a beat on the routine.
Next up are the U.S. Finals, which has nearly 1,700 teams participating in a number of sites around the country in May. The closest for the Galaxy is in Virginia Beach, Va.
Roster: Abi Bates, Kaitlyn Beckwith, Maggie Belleau, Ranissa Berry, Tia Cortes, Kaitlyn Dube, Alexis Gile, Royce Gillium, Kayleigh Girouard, Shae Godbout, Bekah Gray, Haley Hebert, Maddie Leblond, Caitlyn Lewis, David McKusick, Rachel Monegue, Ally Nason, Ashley Pratt, Courtney Smith, Anna Taglieri, Sam Walden, Landon Wilbur, Dustin Wood, Tawni Zamrock; coaches: Matt Hanley, Deneka Deletetsky, Tiffany LeBrun.