AUGUSTA — Maine’s best cheerleading program keeps getting better, or at least more daring and creative.
Needing a little difficulty and drama to motivate a relatively young Lewiston team that was feeling the pressure of defending its Class A championship, coach Lynnette Morency threw in a stunt no judge, spectator or competitor had seen at this level.
The trick: Six cheerleaders hoisted high above the mat, four of them held in place by only a single, female teammate.
“You see it at the college level and the all-star level, but you don’t see it very often. I’ve tried it for a couple years, and this was the first year I thought we could actually do it,” Morency said. “I made them do it because I felt like they needed that ‘wow’ factor this year. We needed to have something else that pushed us over the top.”
Lewiston belted that nuance and every other wrinkle out of the park, wowing more than 3,000 spectators with another over-the-top performance and another state title at Augusta Civic Center on Saturday morning.
The Devils didn’t threaten their 2011 state record point total, but a showing of 163.1 on a scale of 175 was more than five points superior to runner-up Biddeford.
It is Lewiston’s fifth championship since 2003 and its sixth overall. For the second straight winter, the Devils swept the conference, regional and state meets.
“Last year we kind of had that feeling like this was ours for the taking,” senior co-captain Shae Godbout said. “We had to build ourselves up and work a lot harder and get down to business when it was needed. I think our energy level pulled us over.”
Energy is never an issue for the Devils, whose musical selections and choreography always seem to trump the competition.
At times in the meets leading up to the state showcase, however, a team that featured six seniors, four juniors, five sophomores and seven freshmen struggled to get its second wind late in the three-minute set.
“When they got through the stuff that tires them out — the jumps, the dance, the tumbling, the cheer, the co-ed stunts where we put up six, I try to tell them, ‘You can breathe now. You’ve got the rest of this easy.’ That’s what I tried to get them to focus on,” Morency said.
Hermon, Central of East Corinth and Central Aroostook of Mars Hill joined Lewiston in an Eastern Maine sweep of the four championships.
Both Lewiston’s confidence and the crowd noise built to a crescendo in the closing seconds. The Devils, their fan base and backers of top Western challengers Biddeford and Marshwood all recognized that it had been a nearly perfect performance.
“We pulled together right when we wanted to and executed one of those routines that we probably will never see again in high school for a while,” Godbout said. “We push the limit. We don’t like to settle for less. We always like to push ourselves to our best potential. That’s all you can ask for to win a state title.”
Of the contrast between being along for the ride as a junior and leading the charge with fellow seniors Rashonda Bailey, Tiana Lacombe, Rachel Mills, Ellie Rojas and Krista Thomas, Godbout flatly stated that it was “like pulling teeth.”
Morency, ever the perfectionist, knows the feeling. In preceding competitions, she saw her Devils put up scores matching the southern teams despite enduring a bobble or two.
“That’s what I’ve been telling them all season,” Morency said. “ ‘We’ve got to hit this routine, and we haven’t hit it yet. We’ve got to do it today.’ They kept saying, ‘We’ve got it, Coach.’ And I said, ‘Well, could you show me now? Because that would be really awesome if you would do it for me right now.’
“Last year was just unbelievable because we had fought for so long. This year to do it again is so different,” the coach added. “This year felt like blood, sweat and tears every day, every practice. Last year I’m not going to say it came easy, because it didn’t. They had lost three years in a row and weren’t losing again. This team fought hard.”
There are downcast runners-up and exultant runners-up. Lisbon clearly fell into the latter category after finishing second to Central in Class C, enjoying a celebration punctuated by tears of joy, shrieks of happiness and embraces all around.
“It’s very unexpected. We just wanted to be in the top four, and we exceeded our goal,” Lisbon coach Kristina Doughty said. “It’s just amazing.”
Lisbon increased its score from 116 points at the Mountain Valley Conference meet to 122 in winning the regional championship to 130 for a school record here.
The Greyhounds changed little the past two weeks, choosing to focus on perfecting their stunts. They nailed the most difficult maneuver, a pyramid in the latter third of their program.
“I try to keep things the same. Muscle memory is key, and to have a flawless routine you have to flow and focus,” Doughty said. “Once the pyramid hit, I could breathe. You start acting like a crazy person.”
Edward Little finished eighth and Oxford Hills 10th in the 12-team Class A competition. Leavitt (fifth), Mountain Valley (seventh) and Gray-New Gloucester (10th) also competed in Class B.
St. Doms and Monmouth followed Lisbon in the Class C competition, finishing seventh and eighth, respectively. Buckfield was fifth out of the six Class D schools.
Hermon’s Class B title was its second straight and fourth in six years. Central is a first-time champion.
Central Aroostook’s D victory set several standards. The Mars Hill won its fifth consecutive title and its 10th overall. Each is an all-class record in the 26-year history of the cheering competition.