BANGOR – The most successful competition cheerleading season in Edward Little High School history twists, turns and tumbles on.

In likely the closest four-way finish in the 21-year history of the event, EL finished third Monday behind Brewer and Biddeford in the Class A Championship at Bangor Auditorium.

Edward Little joins city neighbor St. Dom’s, Mountain Valley and Oak Hill as a local qualifier for the New England Spirit Championships on March 17 at the University of New Hampshire. It is Maine’s first year of participation beyond state borders.

“I can’t believe it. This was already the farthest EL had ever gone,” said Edward Little coach Nicole Adams. “It took 13 years to get here, and I don’t believe that team made the callback at the states. I cried after they announced the first-round scores.”

That announcement triggered tears on the Lewiston side, too. For the first time since 2002, the Blue Devils finished their season without a conference, regional or state title.

Lewiston received a five-point penalty for a “prone catch” at the end of one of its customary high, twisting throws in the first round. The markdown dropped the defending state champions from third to fifth out of 12 teams, one spot out of an invitation to the final round.

“It was just a little twist to the side,” said Lewiston coach Justin Wing. “This was actually the first time all season that the judges gave our routine the points that it is supposed to be scored at. It was still our best score of the season. I told the girls they have no idea how proud they made me out there tonight.”

That pride and tradition have been slower to catch on across the river, as evidenced by the presence of only two seniors on the Edward Little roster. But co-captains Tiffany Scruggs and Erica Lacasse led a sophomore and junior-dominated group to the school’s first-ever Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference title and a third-place finish in the Eastern Class A meet.

With Brewer also penalized for an illegal catch in the first round of states, EL (157.7 points out of a possible 175) trailed only Biddeford (160.6) out of the four teams to advance. In the encore, the margin between the top four teams shrank to a miniscule 2.4 points, with Brewer (163.7) nudging out Biddeford (163.4) and EL (162.2).

“It’s the best feeling in the world. I waited three years for this,” Lacasse said. “We had a choreographed routine this year, and I think that made a big difference. It gave us the confidence to go out there and know that we could win.”

EL’s “ice” theme was an appropriate sound track for all four squads in the final round, as the top three and fourth-place Marshwood (161.3) each nailed their routine cold with no obvious flaws.

“We went back and hit every stunt the second time,” Scruggs said.

Adams acknowledged that EL and the other Maine schools will be heavy underdogs at the New England competition, having never experienced that level or atmosphere.

As for her Red Eddies, who have persevered through a three-month season and eight hours of bus rides the last three days to get this far, just the thought of walking into the Whittemore Center at UNH is the Hollywood ending to a dream season.

“You watch these movies (about cheering) and you think, ‘Wow, look at that.’ And now that’s going to be us. It’s amazing,” Scruggs said.

Monday’s competition was delayed Saturday afternoon, when a water main break near the auditorium cut off the heat and hot water supply to the aging tournament site. Class B and C action was completed that day.

Class D championships were held along with the Class A competition, with Fort Fairfield (122) easing to the win for the second year in a row over Bangor Christian, Central Aroostook and Machias.

Buckfield finished fifth in the opening round and missed out on a callback by 1.5 points.

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