The Oak Hill competition cheering squad include, from left to right: Front row: Sidney Mills, Kiara Levesque, Peyton Wright, Isabelle Michaud, Autumn Byras. Middle row: Mykayla Greenleaf, Kenzie Parker, Meaddoe Brown, Kirstin Hahn. Back: Morgan Inman, Sarah Duchesneau, Noah Garnett.  (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

WALES — It’s early December, but the calendar says February 10, 2018 for the Oak Hill cheering team.

That’s the scheduled date of the Class B state championship, and it’s the Raiders’ goal — their sole focus — to be competing at Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on that day.

“Every day I show them, ‘February, February, this is where we want to be,'” head coach Louise Gauthier said. “And they’re excited, and they want it.”

The Raiders finished eighth at the Class B South regional championship last year, two spots out of qualifying for states.

“We have, I would say, a lot of focus on that because we haven’t gotten there yet, for a while now,” sophomore Isabelle Michaud said.

The work for this winter began this summer, during both a youth summer camp the team held and in twice-a-week cheering practices. Gauthier said she knew then that this season could be a special one.

“Just seeing the kids coming in, and the work ethic, and seeing the jumps and tumbling and dedication was like we could be looking forward to a really good season,” Gauthier said.

That momentum continued into the start of the season. The Raiders started tryouts on a Tuesday and began to implement their routine for this season. They had the routine roughly completed by that Saturday.

“We got our routine really, really fast and we got it sharp, and so far obviously we don’t have it fast-paced, but we have it,” senior Sidney Mills said. “Everybody’s working so hard on it.”

It’s a far cry from last year, when the Raiders didn’t get their routine choreography until Christmas time. Gauthier made sure to get this year’s choreography by the start of the season.

Gauthier said her team really likes this year’s routine, and they should. The team members were involved in the decision-making on music and theme.

“They love the music, they love the routine, they love that we have it five weeks earlier than we had it before, that we can work it, clean it and be ready to go,” Gauthier said.

What else makes the routine different is the addition of more tumbling. Much more. It’s a piece the Raiders were missing last year, and Gauthier said tumbling can mean the difference of 10-15 points in a team’s score.

An extra 15 points would have sent the Raiders to states last year.

“We focused more on stunting, but the rubric last year, it did prohibit us from some points, that it was based on tumbling mostly,” sophomore Peyton Wright said. “I think it can really improve (our routine) and boost our chances.”

Adding in freshmen Kenzie Parker and Kiara Levesque and sophomore Morgan Inman with returning sophomores Noah Garnett and Meaddoe Brown gives the Raiders five tumblers.

“It’s really, really big because a lot of those all-star teams, they have the tumbling that we do right now,” Mills said.

Everything is in place now for the Raiders. They have their routine, they have the tumbling, and they already have their work ethic in mid-season form. Now all they have to do is keep working on that routine, memorizing it, cleaning it up and tweaking anything they need to.

The team is so focused on that goal of states that the team members are doing extra work outside of practice.

“We actually had videos of the day, and we all looked at them overnight, put them in a group chat that we have so we can all work on them besides like away from practice, at our houses,” Wright said.

Mills said the team is in ‘we want this’ stage right now.

“We sat down and talked ‘we have the talent, we have the tumbling, we have the dedication, we have the teamwork, that we can get to the states,'” Gauthier said. “And they have it in their mindset the harder they work, we can get them into states. And that is their goal, they’re not letting go.”

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