LEWISTON — The 2006 senior class of Lewiston High School cheerleaders won three Class A championships in four years. Their 2011 counterparts have won everything but.

So you might believe that walking into Saturday’s state final at Bangor Auditorium, simply being best-in-class and hoisting that elusive trophy is enough to satisfy the Blue Devils.

Think again.

“We have to be pushing everybody out there for the whole three minutes,” Lewiston senior Jessica Bowen said. “We have to push through this. We have to be the best team the state has ever seen.”

Every year in the evolution of one of Maine’s most popular high school spectator sports, that invisible bar and that record score creep closer to the magic, perfect threshold of 175 points.

Most judges and coaches would say there’s no such thing as a perfect routine. Lewiston would rather shoot for that odd, inverted triangle of an auditorium ceiling and be proven wrong.

By virtue of its Eastern Maine title two weeks ago, Lewiston is seeded first and will perform last in the finals that get underway at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Hometown favorites Bangor and Brewer will precede the Devils. So will Marshwood, the southern, state line school widely acknowledged as Lewiston’s closest competition.

“I love it. Bring the house down. Let them set the bar. We want to demolish it,” Lewiston coach Lynnette Morency said. “I told them we not only have the chance of being state champions, but their goal is a (record) 168. They asked me if I think that’s possible and I told them they already got a 166.4 this year with a stunt that came down. Nothing’s impossible. But we have to worry about winning states first.”

Since a run of three state championships from 2003 to ’06, states have been the Devils’ kryptonite. In at least two of the intervening years, deductions for subtle slip-ups in their routine have proven the difference between first and second, or third, or worse.

Consequently, there has been no let-up at Lewiston practice, even though the Devils have dominated the conference, regional and exhibition slate leading up to states.

Seven Lewiston seniors — Bowen, captains Ashley Blauvelt and Rebecca Lessard, Abby Campbell, Morgan Gilbert, Sam Hopkins and Heather Michaud — have heard the crowd’s cheers and basked in the judges’ accolades before. Three times in their career they’ve won the KVAC and Eastern A crowns, only to be a perennial bridesmaid at states.

“(Morency is) always talking to us about the bottom points on the score sheet. Get those points. It’s the little things,” Campbell said. “And about performance; who makes the last mistakes while you’re out there. Who sells the routine. You have to leave it on the mat, because once it’s over, you’re done.”

Lewiston never lacks for sizzle. Not even rival schools and fans can stop themselves every year from dancing in place to the Devils’ unique music or gasping audibly at their daring twists, risky tosses and sensational somersaults.

The Devils spent much of the two weeks in between the regional and state showcases cooking the steak, as in those elements too often taken for granted — smiling, shouting, spacing and showmanship.

“Two of my seniors are ranked fourth and fifth in the class. They’re smart kids. So I put everything into numbers,” Morency said. “I’ll take our score and divide it by 175 and say, ‘That was an A.’ The next week I’ll say that was a B-plus, and their response is, ‘Wait, we don’t like B-pluses.’ Then you need to work at an ‘A’ capacity. That seems to motivate them each weekend. We want to max out the bottom of the score sheet.”

Lewiston cheerleaders walk into one of the school’s most successful athletic programs.

Many current members of the squad began working with Morency when they were 5 or 6 years old. Morency was director of the recreation department’s cheering program.

Through multiple coaching changes at the high school level, the feeder system has never failed.

“We have a greater amount of talent this year than we ever have,” Michaud said.

There’s a statewide perception that the Devils stay near the top of the mountain thanks to the presence of two all-star cheering gyms in the Twin Cities.

Morency has numbers and percentages available for that discussion, too.

“Of these 24 girls, I only have three that do all-stars. My core of seniors this year haven’t cheered all-stars in three years. This is their focus,” the coach said. “All-stars is a different type of cheering. The freshmen who come in that have cheered all-stars, I almost have to retrain them in the fundamentals. You can’t drop a stunt at high school level. It drops you from first to third. Here you’ve got to be right on, every time.”

Perfecting that program begins with three-hour practices in November, according to Gilbert.

That preparation tapered to 90 minutes per day this week. The team performed one final dress rehearsal for its peers Thursday at a school pep rally.

There will be a team breakfast Saturday before one, final hair and makeup session at the team’s practice facility, the National Guard armory on Goddard Road.

Then it’s off to Bangor for a real-life application of this year’s musical set, a tribute to the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

“We try and act like one big family so we can all achieve one big dream and one goal,” Hopkins said. “It’s kind of like our theme: ‘This Is It.’ This really is it for us seniors.”

Morency expects that note of finality to motivate, not intimidate.

“We talk a lot about the fear of failure and the drive to succeed, and there has to be more points in the column of success and not let the fear column be bigger,” she said. “This is probably one of the most talented teams in a very long time through here. Two years ago we lost states because of a deduction, and they want redemption.

“I think we’re the better team, but we’ve got to show it to the judges.”

[email protected]

An entire year of choreography, three months of tumbling and hundreds of hours of fine-tuning end Saturday, before an audience of thousands.

Thirteen local squads will converge at Bangor Auditorium for the 25th anniversary edition of the Maine Principals’ Association state cheerleading championships.

Class B and C schools compete together in a session beginning at 10 a.m. Class A and D finals begin at 3 p.m.

Lewiston is a co-favorite to win its fourth Class A championship since 2003 after sweeping the KVAC and Eastern Maine titles. Western champion Marshwood of South Berwick is expected to furnish the Blue Devils’ toughest competition.

Marshwood and Lewiston will perform back-to-back at the end by virtue of their regional championships.

“You’re going to be nervous at states. It’s inevitable,” Lewiston coach Lynnette Morency said. “But don’t be nervous about the routine. Be nervous about the environment and the possibilities and everything else, but not because you don’t know the routine.”

Scored on a scale which sets 175 as a perfect score, Lewiston has cleared 160 at every major competition, including a 166.4 at its own Kora Temple Shriners meet three weeks ago.

“Had we hit our jumps and had we yelled at regionals like we did at Shriners, it would have been two more points on the voice column and two more points on the jump column,” Morency said. “That would have brought us back to the same score.”

Edward Little and Oxford Hills join Lewiston as contenders in Class A.

Both have been in the state conversation in the past. The Vikings won Class A championships in 1997, 1999 and 2000. The Red Eddies finished second here in 2007.

Coach Nicole Adams returned to EL this year after a year away.

“I came back for them.” she said. “They wanted to get back to states.”

Poland is the defending champion in Class B. Based on preliminary results, however, Leavitt is the tri-county threat to win it all.

The Hornets finished second to Medomak Valley in the KVAC and Western B competitions and defeated the Panthers at the Lewiston Shriners’ meet.

“All the teams are very close,” Leavitt coach Brenda Perry said. “We try to refine what we do and try to get a better score. Sometimes we add a stunt.”

Hermon, which won Class B each of the last two times that the state meet was held in neighboring Bangor, was a runaway winner in Eastern Maine two weeks ago.

Mountain Valley and Lisbon will join Leavitt and Poland in the B bracket.

Monmouth Academy aims for its all-class record ninth state title and second in Class C on the heels of a Western Maine championship.

Livermore Falls hopes to pull a surprise and win its first state crown after a best-ever second place effort at regionals. The Andies have eight seniors.

“It will be a building year for us next year, for sure. I’ve had them all since they were little,” coach Dianna Pomerleau. “I’ve been (Area Youth Sports) coach for 12 years, high school for four.”

St. Dom’s and Jay also are qualified in Class C, as are Buckfield and Rangeley in Class D. Sumner and Central Aroostook are defending champions, respectively.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: