They’re all qualities that built Lewiston High School into a competition cheering dynasty. They also, admittedly, might have played a role in the Blue Devils’ temporary downfall Saturday morning.
Other Class A rivals were flawless. Lewiston, likely starting with the highest baseline score in the state final because of its jaw-droppingly challenging routine, was not.
The three-time defending champions passed the crown. The Devils weren’t second, or even third. When the scores were tallied, trophies presented, pictures taken and tearful embraces given, Lewiston was fourth, looking up at Biddeford, Marshwood and Bangor.
“It was a collective group. It touched us all over. It wasn’t one particular group or one particular stunt,” Lewiston coach Lynnette Morency said. “It was the stunts. It was tumbling. It was the pyramid. It was a lot of different things.”
Teams in the final performed their three-minute routines in ascending order from their performance at regionals, alternating West and East, leaving the favorites in bang-bang-bang order at the end.
Marshwood established itself as the clear clubhouse leader with a crisp, clean routine. Lewiston went next, and when the Devils encountered a couple of early bobbles and a partially collapsed pyramid near the two-minute mark, the door was wide open.
Biddeford closed it out with a flawless run-through, matching Marshwood with an identical score of 158.5 on a scale of 175. The tiebreaker? The Hawks were assessed a one-point penalty during their performance, while the Tigers were not, giving Biddeford its fifth state championship and a measure of payback.
It was Lewiston in 2011 which stymied Biddeford’s shot at the stand-alone Class A record of four consecutive titles and began its own streak.
“We have a lot of competition. We copy each other, apparently. We knew,” Biddeford senior Sarah Poirier said. “We didn’t want them to get a four-peat. We didn’t want them to go through and have a state championship all four years and us not have one. That was our greatest drive.”
Bangor was third with 149.1, a shade ahead of Lewiston at 148.9.
That total was eerily consistent with the Blue Devils’ score in winning their sixth straight KVAC title and fifth consecutive Class A East championship in January.
In its championship run, Lewiston has consistently climbed the ladder from one competition to the next, sharpening and shining up its program to near perfection. There was no such steady rise this winter.
“When stunts drop like that, they get you on overall performance, and we got hit hard,” Morency said. “Our score is where it’s been along. We were consistently performing the same way all season, and at some point you can’t rely on that perfect performance.”
This was the youngest team in Lewiston’s reign, with only four seniors — Abby Madden, Cassie Regner, Erin Morris and Lily Fundis — and four juniors on a 22-person roster.
Even though Biddeford and Marshwood cashed in with routines that were less risky to the naked eye, Morency said she never considered playing it closer to the vest.
“I’ve always done that, and I’m not going to stop doing that, because that’s what we do. We raise the bar,” Morency said. “It’s not that we can’t. We just didn’t. We didn’t do it when we needed to do it. The pressure was incredible. They worked as hard as they could and it just wasn’t our day, and that’s OK.”
Poirier said that Biddeford didn’t have a smooth week of practice or a clean warm-up.
The anxieties drifted away when the Tigers hit the mat, however. Once she glanced out of the corner of her eye and saw the team hit its second stunt, Poirier knew the championship was within reach. At one point, two teammates even hugged mid-performance.
“It was much better than regionals. We hit it perfectly here, and we deserved first place,” Poirier said. “We had a rough week, but we all pulled it off and made everyone happy, made our coaches happy and made ourselves happy.”
Oxford Hills and Edward Little also competed in the Class A meet, finishing eighth and 12th, respectively.
The top three teams traditionally advance to the New England competition in Lawrence, Mass.
Because Biddeford’s team includes one boy, the Tigers fall into a co-ed class at the next level. As the third-best all-girls’ team, Lewiston earns an invitation and a chance to take home New England honors for the third straight year.
“We’ll go and take our chances,” Morency said. “If they hit the routine, we can win.”
In the Class D competition held prior to Class A, Central Aroostook of Mars Hill regained its title after a one-year hiccup, winning for the sixth time in seven years. Its 11 total championships are an all-class record in the 22-year history of the sport in Maine.
Machias was runner-up. The lone local entry, Buckfield, finished seventh out of the eight participating schools.