BANGOR — Kneeling in a circle on the Cross Insurance Center floor, members of the Ellsworth High School cheer team clutched one another as tightly as they could.
A half-hour earlier, Ellsworth had walked off the arena mats with confidence after performing its routine at the Class B North championships. There was hope in the air for the Eagles, but the wait to hear the winner announced was a tough one to endure.
“It just felt like forever,” Ellsworth junior Tanner Hardison said. “We knew it was our best performance of the year, but you’re still nervous and kind of preparing for the worst.”
As the placements of the 15 competitors were announced over the address system, the Eagles held hands as they huddled around each other in anticipation. After a few minutes, that anticipation turned to joy as the Eagles were crowned regional champions.
Ellsworth won the Northern Maine cheer title for the first time in history Saturday when it claimed first place in the Class B North competition in Bangor. It was the team’s fifth regional title overall and first since it won the Eastern Maine crown in 2013.
For the Eagles, whose 88.2 points edged out the Hawks’ 85.5, the first-place finish came after the team had finished a distant second to Hermon at the Big East and Penobscot Valley Conference championships. Hermon had outscored Ellsworth by double digits in each of those competitions, but the Eagles were determined not to let that happen again.
“The girls knew they had to step it up, and they did,” Ellsworth co-coach Kat Dickens said. “Being able to hit their routine was the main goal, and taking first is just a sign that all the hard work they put in to get better was worth it.”
Three of the competition’s four judges gave Ellsworth the highest score of the 15 teams competing. Even though the remaining judge placed the Eagles third behind Hermon and Old Town, that didn’t stop the Eagles from tallying enough points for first place.
The win marked the second straight week of improvement for Ellsworth, which had scored 74.2 points at the Jan. 19 PVC championships after earning 69.1 at the Big East championships one week earlier. This time, a gain of 14 points was enough to put the Eagles above a Hermon squad that also improved from its showing at PVCs.
“Our routine is probably the hardest that this group of kids has ever seen, and they just physically were not conditioned for it [in our first two meets],” co-coach Melanie Omlor-Fox said. “This time, the consistency in practice and the consistency with the kids being comfortable with what they were doing paid off for us.”
The Eagles will be idle Saturday, Feb. 2, as they prepare for next weekend’s Class B championships. If the Eagles come home with gold hardware yet again, they will do as the first state championship-winning cheer team in school history.
“It’s going to take a lot of hard work, and we’re hoping for no snow days because every second we spend practicing or at games is going to count even more now,” Dickens said. “This is it for us and all the other teams who want that state championship, and we have to keep pushing ourselves toward that finish line.”
Members of this year’s Ellsworth team are Abby Bland, Anna Brown, Chenell Campbell, Brooke Carver, Alli Dorr, Tanner Hardison, Laura Jude, Jada Kairys, Ellie Kane, Bailey Peterson, Lexi Rossi, Paige Sawyer, Kerrigan Shorey and Emma Whitney.
Bucks, Trojans, Tigers, Mariners off to states
The Bucksport, Mount Desert Island, Sumner and Deer Isle-Stonington cheer teams also qualified for the upcoming state championships in their respective classes.
MDI tied with John Bapst for fourth place in Class B North with 66.2 points. The Trojans finished behind Ellsworth, Hermon, Old Town and Presque Isle.
In Class C North, Sumner and Bucksport both made the cut in the 11-team field. Tigers finished second behind Central, and Bucksport edged Orono for sixth to claim the final spot at states. Deer Isle-Stonington finished fifth in a tight field to make the cut in Class D North.
State championships for all classes will be held Feb. 9 at the Augusta Civic Center. Classes A and D will begin at 10 a.m., and the B and C competitions will follow at 2 p.m.