Erskine Academy cheering coach Julie Wing remembers the disappointment from last year. When her Eagles thought they had the team that could bring Erskine to the Class B state championships for the first time in two decades, only to fall short by less than a point.

Erskine had another chance Saturday. This time, the Eagles didn’t let it get away.

Erskine made its second Class B championship and first in 21 years, scoring 57.5 points to come away with sixth place and the final qualifying spot at the B North regional championships at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Hermon won the title with 85.5 points, followed by Ellsworth (81.4), Old Town (75.9), Mt. Desert Island (65.9) and Gardiner, which scored 62.9 points to make its second straight Class B championship.

In A North at the Augusta Civic Center, Bangor edged defending champion Lewiston 91.9 to 90.3, while Oxford Hills (78.9), Brewer (74), Lawrence (65.9) and Mt. Blue (63.1) also nabbed state bids. In C South, Lisbon earned its third title in four years with 67.5 points. Sacopee Valley edged Monmouth Academy for second place, 55.3 to 55.1, and Wiscasset (51.7), Dirigo (46.8) and Boothbay (45.1) also moved on.

Still, few storylines topped Erskine’s in B North, where the Eagles simultaneously erased a long qualifying drought and dashed the bad memories from last year, when they fell 0.6 points shy of a state berth.

“It was disappointing, to say the least,” Wing said of last year’s finish. “But we knew what we had to do to gain the extra points. A lot of kids took some off-season tumbling classes, and during the season we worked on doing harder stunts so we could gain harder points.”

That focus on improvement translated Saturday, when Erskine improved by 13 points on its fifth-place showing at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships. The Eagles incorporated five tumblers into the performance, up from two at the KVACs, and took on bolder and more aggressive stunting to earn the points that ended up proving vital — only 2.1 points separated Erskine from seventh-place Presque Isle.

“I was happy with the performance that the girls did. We added a lot of elite stunting, and they went out there and performed it well,” Wing said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Our goal was to make it to states, and that’s what we did.”

In doing so, Erskine could put a checkmark next to what was its top ambition at the start of the year.

“It was definitely our No. 1 goal for the season,” Wing said. “We set goals at the beginning of the season, and that was the No. 1 thing the girls wanted. … This will definitely change the perception of the cheerleaders, kids who want to join the sport, knowing that we can make it to states.”

Gardiner eyed a spot in states as well — and likewise, knew it was going to have to make some changes. The Tigers were a distant third with 50.5 point at the KVAC championships, due largely to a lack of familiarity with the new scoring system in place.

The 12.4-point improvement Saturday proved coach Jeanne Moody had put the Tigers back on track.

“We did some new things, the KVAC judges gave us some really good input,” Moody said. “We tried to build other points onto the scoresheet. The kids have worked very, very hard, and it paid off today.”

Moody put in some changes to make the Tigers’ routine more complex, swapping out two-leg stunts for one-leg stunts and adding more tricks to their pyramid form. Despite the short break between competitions, Moody said the team picked up on the changes quickly.

“We had a plan and we stuck to it,” she said. “The kids just said ‘We’ll do it, whatever we have to do to qualify for states.’ … They nailed it.”

Moody said she could tell things were going well even before the routine was over.

“I was jumping up and down and clapping, tears were running down,” she said. “Hours and hours of work go into a 2:30 routine.”

In A North, Mt. Blue made states for the third straight year. Not that coach Holly Harrington was certain her team, which lost two members to the flu, was going to extend its streak.

“They did amazing. We had three days to change our routine around,” she said. “This year feels different because we were really nervous that we wouldn’t make it.”

The Cougars’ performance lacked the acrobatics and flips of Lewiston’s and Bangor’s routines, but was clean and crisp throughout.

“Clean, energy and just wanting to give their all,” Harrington said. “We started out super strong, but it seemed like we had so many things come up along the way that just discouraged them. I told them, no matter what, to get out there today, sell it and give it their best.”

Lawrence, which was named the most improved team at the KVACs, put itself back in states after a three-year absence.

“It’s pretty crazy to think about, but they worked hard all week and they put a lot of effort in,” coach Kori Whited said.

Whited said an attention to detail made the difference for the Bulldogs, who were the third team to take the floor in the competition.

“They did a great job working on their technique, so all those little things about staying clean and keeping their chest up, every aspect that goes into their stunts is what they were thinking about,” she said. “Instead of the whole thing, they thought about it piece by piece and executed it well.”

Whited said she felt the routine the Bulldogs have been using would be enough to advance.

“We focused on just cleaning it up. We didn’t change anything,” she said. “We worked on everything we had and just making it the best that they could do it.”

In C South, the Mustangs, who left the floor after their routine with a down look on their faces, were “very pleased” with the third-place finish, according to coach Shannon Fields.

“They were shooting for second this year, but some stunts fell that we weren’t expecting,” Fields said. “That’s OK. We’re going to states. We’re going to pick it up and hit them there.

“We were really close. We were 0.2 from second place, so I think that they can overcome that small portion really, really easily.”

Fields admitted that her team was nervous, taking the floor second out of eight teams and not getting a chance to see any other teams before performing.

Medomak Valley won B South with 76.2 points, followed by Gray-New Gloucester (66.8), Leavitt (60.2), Morse (58.5), Mountain Valley (58) and Spruce Mountain (50.9). Oak Hill was 11th at 44.2.

Sun Journal reporter Wil Kramlich contributed to this story

 

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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