Lewiston performs in the Class A cheerleading state championship at Augusta Civic Center in February. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal file photo Buy this Photo 

A routine in cheering is like a play in football, but it’s the only play the team has and it needs to be perfect every time it’s performed. 

When a change — such as an injury — occurs, an audible must be called, usually with little time to perfect the new play, though the team is still expected to perform at the top of its game. 

Lewiston twice had to call audibles during the season when adversity was thrown its way, but the Blue Devils’ best was enough to place in the top three at each of the season’s biggest meets and against the top teams in the state. 

The hardware that the Blue Devils captured while overcoming hardship garners has earns them the title of 2019-20 Sun Journal All-Region Cheerleading Team of the Year. 

“I really think this season had small and large successes,” senior Abby Levasseur said. “Positivity had to be the biggest accomplishment.” 

“(First-year head coach Matt Hanley) really set the expectation of positivity,” Levasseur added. “He wanted us to be able to motivate each other and look at the bright side of every situation. In practices, instead of focusing on the negative of what went wrong, we focused on the positive of what hit or what improved. Overall, the expectation at the end of the day was to hit a routine. Lewiston hadn’t hit a routine in a couple years and we wanted to feel the sensation of hitting again.” 

Hanley said that obviously he wanted his new team to win competitions, but he knew he had some groundwork to lay. 

“So I told myself that I just want the team to hit,” he said. 

“I made sure to build them a routine they could physically handle with confidence and be able to make changes, if needed,” Hanley added. “I knew there was a possibility of running into some score sheet issues, and we did. Each athlete knew they could hit what they already had, and we eventually were able to add more difficulty to help with our scores and placement.” 

Lewiston performs in the Class A cheerleading state championship at Augusta Civic Center in February. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Hanley said the timeline he and the team had for perfecting the routine made it difficult. 

“The competitive high school cheer season is so short. It was hard to teach the advanced, intricate stunting that Lewiston does in the amount of time we had,” he said. “Once we got the stunts down everything else was a breeze. I have a very talented group of kids who love to cheer and are always willing to set it back up for one more run-through.”

Levasseur said the team’s performance at a showcase before the major competition season was the first great hit for the team. 

Then the team was hit with bad news the day before the first major competition, the KVAC championship. 

“We had a major injury the day before, taking out one of our back spots and tumblers. With only hours to fill in an alternate that practice, we went into KVACs a little stressed and unsure. After a rough warmup they went out and did what they love to do — performed — and did amazing,” Hanley said. “They learned that you don’t have to get first place to ‘win.’ They won by just hitting through all that adversity.” 

Lewiston finished third, behind champion Oxford Hills and runner-up Bangor. 

The team then had a quick turnaround to the Class A North regional competition, only four days and two practices, which Levasseur called “frightening” because they dropped from 15 athletes in the routine to 14. Still, the Blue Devils finished in second behind Bangor, and improved on their KVACs score by 3.6 points. 

“With all the major changes and being an athlete down, we were able to increase our score and placement. The team was happy to bring home some hardware that day, for sure,” Hanley said. 

Lewiston was back at 15 athletes for the Class A state championship, but a “hiccup” in the routine, according to Hanley, put the team’s placing in doubt. 

“One of our stunts fell during the performance, which was discouraging because we had worked so hard all season,” Levasseur said. “I’m glad to say we responded to the fall well by executing the rest of our routine.” 

Hanley said he knew Biddeford, which went last, was going to win the moment the Tigers finished their routine. When Lewiston was announced as the runner-up, “It was definitely a win for us,” he said. 

“To come in second felt like a small victory,” Levasseur said. “We even dubbed ourselves the ‘State champions of the North’ because we came out on top when selectively looking at our regionals competitors (Bangor and Oxford Hills).” 

Lewiston placed second at the Class A cheerleading state championship at Augusta Civic Center in February. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal file photo Buy this Photo

The team was hoping to continue its positive momentum into the New England championships, but those were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Not having the chance to perform at New Englands was definitely disappointing. … We all wanted to have that last opportunity to really hit our routine despite more roster changes,” Levasseur said. “I took the responsibility of reminding the team of the positive. I told them, ‘Look, New Hampshire and Massachusetts both don’t even have their states, imagine working so hard, especially for the seniors, and losing states. Now that is heartbreaking.'” 

Hanley found a way to finish up his first year leading the program on a happier note. 

“We decided to end our season with fun mini-routines that they made up in groups. That way we could finish our season with something positive,” he said. 

Lewiston performs in the Class A cheerleading state championship at Augusta Civic Center in February. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

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