The Bangor High School cheerleading team captured its second Class A state championship in four years and Penobscot Valley High of Howland dethroned defending seven-time state Class D winner Central Aroostook High School of Mars Hill for its first ever state title during Saturday’s livestreaming of the events.
Central Aroostook had won 12 of the previous 13 state titles.
The competitions were held virtually earlier this week due to the COVID-19 pandemic, judged, then broadcast on Saturday when the results were revealed. Teams had one chance to perform and record their routines and submit them as mandated by the Maine Principals’ Association.
Bangor scored 65 points to nip two-time defending champ Biddeford by half a point. The Rams last won the title in 2018.
Bangor, under co-head coaches Kate Robichaud and Stephanie Crane along with assistant Shawna Kenney, finished third a year ago.
Scarborough, coached by former Bangor High cheerleader Hanya Phillips, was third in the 18-team field with 63.5 points followed by Lewiston (62.45), Oxford Hills of South Paris (61.9), Marshwood of Eliot (51.95), Sanford (51.4), Massabesic of Waterboro (49.4), Noble of North Berwick (47.5) and Gorham (45.25).
Three portions of normal cheerleading routine were eliminated due to COVID-19 concerns: vocal performance, pyramids and the five-point showmanship category. As a result, the maximum possible score was 75 points instead of 100.
Captain Brianna Tracy is the only senior on Bangor’s 13-member team, which also includes juniors Tessa Alley, Elizabeth Brecht, Natalie Cross, Olivia Drake, Kaydence Lux, Haley Pasternack, Emily Tenney, Hailey Tracy and Necia York, and sophomores Taylor Blackwell, Summer Campbell and Linzee Doyle.
“We had no idea [we were going to win],” Crane said. “We figured we would be in the top five.
“We probably had the cleanest routine out there, but we didn’t have much difficulty in our stunts and we didn’t have the amount of tumblers [other contenders had],” Crane said.
Bangor won the KVACs a week earlier and Crane said the state championship performance was improved.
“We had better jump timing and dance execution. And we added a little more difficulty to our stunts. Our jumps and tumbling were much cleaner,” she said.
“We focused so much on transition and on keeping things as tight as possible to earn as many extra points that we could,” Tracy said. “Sometimes you get caught up in trying to do the best possible stuff and being showy when it’s better to keep it simple.”
Crane said the cheerleaders were motivated by their desire to give Bangor High athletic director Steve Vanidestine “another (state championship) banner.”
“He is one of our biggest supporters,” Tracy explained.
The state championship is particularly sweet for Tracy, who was a JV in 2018, an alternate in 2019, was sidelined by a broken foot a year ago and began this season in COVID-19 quarantine.
“I can’t think of a better way to end (my career),” she said.
In Class D, Penobscot Valley, the 2020 runner-up, tallied 50.2 points to edge Central Aroostook (49.3) by less than a point.
Bangor Christian matched last year’s third-place finish with 38.3 points.
Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook (32.7) and Schenck of East Millinocket (30.9) rounded out the top five in the 11-team field.
Southern Aroostook didn’t have a team last year and Schenck didn’t participate in the state championship competition.
The other participants were Buckfield (30.6), Lee Academy (287.8), Penquis of Milo (24.9), Forest Hills of Jackman (18.6), Fort Fairfield (14.9) and Stearns High of Millinocket (13.9).
The Howlers featured a small squad with just seven cheerleaders, including six seniors. The seniors knew this was their last chance.
“It was the best we’ve ever done in our four years,” senior Isabella Heald said.
“It was perfect,” senior Emma Buck said. “We knew we had to give it our all.”
Central Aroostook edged PVHS by 2.5 points last year.
“We finally pulled it out,” Buck said.
The team also includes seniors Kiera Hatch, Kara Theriault, Paige Carter and Makayla Sisco, along with junior Maggie LeBlanc.
“They showed a lot of confidence they hadn’t shown before and they all came together,” assistant coach Kourtney Thurlow said.
The Howlers previously hired a choreographer to provide them with a routine before the state meet, but they decided to go with their own routine this season.
Head coach Wendy Clark-Thurlow said not having pyramids helped her team.
“Pyramids are going to be more impressive if you have 18 cheerleaders on your squad rather than seven,” she said.
The Howlers added more difficult tumbling routines as they progressed through the season, but they kept their total program simple and just tried to clean everything up for the state meet.
“We had to have precise movements and outpoint Central Aroostook in stunting and motion technique,” Clark-Thurlow said.