BANGOR, Maine — The Penobscot Valley High School cheering squad has been chasing the Class D champions for the last few years.
Now the Howlers are the champs.
Coach Heidi Sullivan’s squad used an energetic routine full of tumbling Saturday to edge perennial power Central Aroostook of Mars Hill and capture the Class D North/South regional crown at the Cross Insurance Center.
The Howland school finished with 67.6 points while Central Aroostook was second with 62.4.
“I was hoping for this,” said Sullivan, whose team had finished second to Central Aroostook at regionals and states each of the last two years. “Dedication and hard work is what we strive for, and everything else falls into place.”
The regional crown was the first for Penobscot Valley since 1988.
“It’s all I’ve ever wanted,” said Paige Thibodeau, one of six seniors on the PVHS roster. “We knew that some of the time we didn’t have what it took because (Central Aroostook) had so many people and so many tumblers, but this year we knew we had the one-up on them.”
Much of that confidence stemmed from the addition of nine freshmen to the Howlers’ squad this winter.
“We knew since my freshman year that those girls were going to be coming up and that they were going to be good cheerleaders,” said Thibodeau. “Our freshmen really did it for us this year. We knew it was our year from the start.”
Central Aroostook, the four-time defending state champion, boasted a roster similar in experience to Penobscot Valley with six seniors and seven freshmen, but the Panthers were unable to match the Howlers on the mat a week after defeating the likes of Class B Presque Isle and Caribou and Class C Houlton to win the Aroostook League title.
“We were doing very well, but we also knew the scores were not quite where we wanted them to be,” said Central Aroostook head coach Sami Jo Allen. “We knew we had to increase our pyramid and partner stunts and try to increase our tumbling and that’s where we were getting beat, on the tumbling.
“We didn’t have a perfect routine out there so we’re going to try and clean it up,” she added. “We’re not giving up, that’s for sure. There’s no giving up.”
Penobscot Valley and Central Aroostook will be joined at the Class D state meet on Feb. 10 at the Cross Center by the next four top teams at the regional: Machias (48.1), Bangor Christian (45.0), Deer Isle-Stonington (42.5) and Woodland (40.2).
Also at the regional were Fort Fairfield (39.4) and Buckfield (32.4).
PVHS team members are Thibodeau, Christine Brown, Emma Buck, Paige Carter, Isabella Heald, Kiera Hatch, Lindsay Michaud, McKenzie Plourde, Millie Richard, Julie Rogers, Indi Rosario, Makayla Sisco, Isaac St. Cyr, Delaney Theriault, Kara Theriault, Marina Theriault, Mackenzie Thompson and Gabby Thibodeau.
“It has a lot to do with going out there and selling the routine,” said Sullivan, whose squad had won the Penobscot Valley Conference Class D competition last week. “You’ve got to go out there, have a lot of fun and show that to the judges.
“I tell the team to bring the sass.”