Breaking through

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AUGUSTA – Name the sport and Mountain Valley or Dirigo High School probably owns a regional championship trophy in its case.

In competition cheering, though, the two neighboring rivals had only knocked on the door. Knocked hard, mind you, but never kicked it down. So it’s probably fitting that when the Falcons and Cougars finally shouted, danced and tumbled their way to titles, they took care of that final detail on the same day.

Mountain Valley edged Oak Hill to wrap up its first-ever Western Class B banner Saturday afternoon. Later in the evening, Dirigo finally conquered what proved a slippery rung on the ladder and hoisted its initial Western Class C crown at Augusta Civic Center.

“We’ve been working at this all four years,” exulted Jasmine Jacques, one of Dirigo’s six senior co-captains. “We’ve finally done it.”

The Cougars settled for second place to Lisbon in the 2004 regional meet and St. Dom’s in 2005 and 2006.

Likewise, the Falcons consistently cleared the top-six hurdle necessary to advance from this round to state competition but never previously held the brass ring. Mountain Valley took home third last January while Wells walked away a winner.

“Everything had to be clean, clean, clean. That’s the only way we were ever going to beat everybody,” said Mountain Valley senior co-captain Stephanie Dragoon.

Thousands of spectators milled in and out of the auditorium for four separate regional championship meets, and they witnessed a sensational day for area schools. Ten local teams qualified for the state meet Feb. 10 in Bangor.

In addition to Mountain Valley and Oak Hill, Poland and Lisbon also moved on in Class B. Monmouth, St. Dom’s and Jay will follow Dirigo into the Class C finals in two weeks, while Lewiston and Edward Little each advanced from Eastern Class A. EL is in the state finals for the first time since 1994.

Which of the two champions endured the longer wait for its moment of glory depends upon your perspective. Jacques and fellow Dirigo seniors Chelsea Austin, Brianna Elliott, Rachael Hall, Jessica Mayo and Allison Roy felt like their runner-up run lasted an eternity.

Of course, none of them lived when Mountain Valley coach Linda Burns began coaching cheerleading squads of varying age groups in 1984. That’s three years before the Maine Principals’ Association sanctioned competition cheering as a sport.

Burns assumed the reins of the high school program five seasons ago. The Falcons won the Mountain Valley Conference championship each of those winters but couldn’t ride that momentum into regionals until now.

“These girls always have fun and have high energy,” Burns said. “We came up with a routine that fits their personality.”

Mountain Valley and Dirigo cheer in different classes but derive ample motivation from each other. The Cougars felt they would have broken the Falcons’ perennial grip on the MVC title two weeks ago if not for a stunt that was ruled illegal.

“We had to get over that second-place curse,” Elliott said.

Lewiston played the unfamiliar bridesmaid role this time. The Blue Devils, who have won three of the last four Class A state championships, settled for second behind Brewer.

“We can take a lot of confidence into states,” said Lewiston senior Kaitlyn Letourneau, “because a lot of the stuff that happened today (to keep us from winning) never happens.”

The Devils admittedly took solace in avenging their Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship loss to rival Edward Little. Third place in the regional round was a pretty good consolation prize for the Red Eddies, though.

“That wasn’t our best performance, but I give the girls a lot of credit for being the first team in 13 years to qualify for states,” said EL coach Nicole Adams. “They deserve a big pat on the back for that.”

Biddeford snagged Saturday’s first title, ruling Western Class A.

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