AUGUSTA — Consider this comeback “Whit-nessed.”
The Sumner cheer team won the state championship for the second time in program history Saturday afternoon with a first-place finish in the Class C championships at the Augusta Civic Center. The state title win was the Tigers’ first since they claimed the crown in 2010, Sumner graduate Whitney Doughty’s junior year. Doughty passed away in a tragic accident last spring.
“We knew from the start that we wanted to make this a year we’d never forget,” said Sumner co-coach Monica Pettegrow, whose team dedicated the season to Doughty. “This was Whitney’s passion, and so many of those kids were her kids. They worked so hard to get here.”
Sumner registered 80.1 points to emerge victorious in a four-way battle for first place. The Tigers beat out Lisbon (77.7 points), Monmouth Academy (75.1 points) and Central (75.0 points) for the title with a routine that included numerous references to Doughty in the team’s chants and audio voiceovers.
The state title followed the Tigers’ first-place finishes in the Downeast Athletic Conference, Penobscot Valley Conference and Class C North championships. Such a run of dominance can be remarkably difficult in a sport that can see a team’s chances collapse with just a single fall or wrong move, but a Sumner team competing in Doughty’s memory didn’t want to settle for anything less.
“Our goal was to not only capture the state title but to sweep all four of our competitions,” co-coach Jessica Snowdeal said. “[That’s] something Sumner cheering has never done.”
As was the case ahead of the Jan. 11 DAC championships in Baileyville, icy weather in the area threw a wrench into Sumner’s state championship meet preparation late in the week. Knowing ahead of time that the impending storm posed a significant threat to their Thursday and Friday practices, though, the Tigers spent Wednesday afternoon perfecting the most important aspects of their routine.
“We knew that could be our last practice before Saturday, so we wanted to really put that extra focus into the change in our pyramid,” Pettegrow said. “It wasn’t ideal, but we knew that was going to be what made us most comfortable going into Saturday.”
Although the Class B and Class C teams began competing at 2 p.m., the Tigers were last on the list with a scheduled start time of 4:18. Waiting more than two hours to perform wasn’t optimal, but it didn’t stop Sumner from executing what Pettegrow called a “flawless routine.”
“It’s a long time to be sitting around and getting antsy, but that was the time they gave us,” Pettegrow said. “It was a chance for us to give the last impression, and they went out and did that.”
Pettegrow said Sumner had well over 100 fans cheering the team on from the Civic Center stands. Yet the team’s arrival back home was just as special as students, faculty members and community members arrived at the high school to greet a joyful team bus guided home via a Hancock County Sheriff’s Office motorcade.
“We always strive to create a cheer family vs. just a cheer team,” Snowdeal said. “Our kids love each other, and it makes all the difference; our fans light our kids up when they perform and are such a big part of our success.”
Doughty, whose presence Sumner cheerleaders and coaches said they felt all season long, would have been proud of her alma mater’s season no matter what. Yet by claiming the ultimate prize for the school’s trophy case, this year-long tribute has now become everything the community could have ever wanted — if not much more.
“This truly was the perfect ending,” Pettegrow said. “So much of what those kids did on those mats was instilled in them by Whitney and who she was. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Eagles take 2nd in Class B; Golden Bucks win Good Sportsmanship Award
Ellsworth matched its best finish in school history Saturday with a second-place finish in the Class B competition.
The Eagles finished with 86.2 points, just 0.8 shy of state champion Hermon. Entering the competition looking to nail a challenging routine, Ellsworth put forth an effort that thrilled its coaches.
“The team worked hard to compete with one of their most difficult routines yet,” Ellsworth co-coach Kat Dickens said. “Our goal for states was to have our best performances of the season, and they surely did.”
Back in Class C, Bucksport finished with 58.9 points to finish ahead of Wells, Sacopee Valley, Dexter, Mountain Valley and Madison/Carrabec. Yet the Golden Bucks earned a prize of their own on the day as the team was awarded Class C’s Good Sportsmanship Award.