AUGUSTA — Every time Chelse Macomber steps to the mat her stomach starts to turn.

A senior captain on the Mt. Blue High School cheerleading team, Macomber is hardly the only one who feels those pre-competition nerves. However, then the music begins and countless hours of repetition start to take over.

“As soon as I step on the mat it’s like my home,” Macomber said. “I get onto it and I’m like, ‘I’ve got this, my girls have got this, we can do it and we’re going to get some place.'”

That place, as it would turn out Saturday morning at the Augusta Civic Center, is somewhere the Cougars have not been since 2010 — states.

Macomber and Mt. Blue head coach Holly Harrington admitted it was not the team’s sharpest performance of the season, yet it was still good enough as the Cougars punched their ticket to the Class A state championships Feb. 6 in Bangor thanks to their fifth-place finish.

“It’s such a huge achievement. I can’t even explain how excited I am,” Macomber said, eyes still red from the tears she and her teammates shed after hearing they had made the top six. “I’ve never gone to states — ever — and going to it is going to be a new experience for me. It’s a new experience for the girls I’m cheering with right now. It’s awesome.”

“Our biggest strength is that they have fun and they sell it,” Harrington added. “We know that we don’t have a lot of difficulty in the routine but they worked what they had and sold it.

“… They just worked really hard. It’s a dedicated group, always willing to do what I ask.”

While the state meet will be a new experience for the Cougars, it was business as usual for Lewiston. The Blue Devils totaled 84.7 points to top runnerup Bangor by five points for their eighth straight regional cheering title.

Brewer (72.8), Oxford Hills (70.8), Mt. Blue (64.9) and Brunswick (62.7) rounded out the teams from Class A headed to the state meet. Lawrence — who was docked six points in deductions — finished in ninth place with 57.5 points, while Cony and Messalonskee placed 11th and 12th, respectively.

“It’s something we really pride ourselves on. It’s not easy. We definitely work hard for it,” first-year Lewiston head coach Lysa Laverdiere said. “It’s pretty special to be a part of it.

“…We have some of the most difficult stunts in the state, and they really strive for perfection in practice and when they perform at competitions so I think that really separates us from the other teams.”

Laverdiere, a former coach at Lewiston Middle School, took over this season after Lynnette Morency resigned in September after nine years at the helm of the Blue Devils. While it may be her first season as head coach, Laverdiere — who was also a volunteer assistant with the varsity program — said hopes remain high for Lewiston, which has won four of the previous five Class A titles.

“We have the same expectations as we’ve had in the past years so they’re definitely living up to them,” Laverdiere said. “…There’s a lot of similarities in what we’ve been doing in the past but we’re switching it up a little bit here and there.”

Following the Class A North competition, Dirigo won Class C South with 64.5 points. The Cougars were followed by Sacopee Valley (61), Monmouth (57.2), St. Dominic (57), Lisbon (55.5) and Boothbay (49.8) as the teams that qualified for states. Madison, which finished third in Class C last season, withdrew from the event prior to the start.

Bulldogs head coach Amber Noyes said by phone Saturday afternoon the team had planned to compete at the start of the season when it fielded 10 cheerleaders. However, after losing a competitor, then gaining a replacement but later dropping to nine once again Noyes and the team decided to pass on the competition, citing safety reasons.

“We’ve built up the program over the years and as much as it broke my heart to not take them it just came to a risk that somebody was going to get hurt,” said Noyes, who is in her eighth season at Madison. “As a coach I had to put their safety first.”

In Bangor Saturday, Mount View also qualified for the state championships by virtue of its sixth-place performance with 59.3 points in Class B North. There, Old Town (76.4) took home the top spot and was followed by Hermon (75.4), Ellsworth (75.3), John Bapst (66.7) and Presque Isle (65.9). Erskine was ninth with 52.9 points, Gardiner (52.0) took 10th, Winslow (45.4) placed 12th, Waterville (43.6) came in 13th and Nokomis (41.7) was 14th.

Central Aroostook won the Class D North/South regional with 67.4 points to hold off Penobscot (62.6) and Machias (56.3). Rangeley was eighth with 40.4 points. In the Class C North competition, Orono put up a score of 75.4 to top Central (69.0) and Houlton (64.6).

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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