Lisbon finished second in the Class C South regional cheering championship at the Augusta Civic Center in January 2020. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Editor’s note: The Sun Journal previewed Franklin- and Kennebec-county teams as their seasons were starting last month. Now, we are previewing the Androscoggin, Oxford and Cumberland teams from the Sun Journal’s coverage area.

The Lisbon cheerleading team is coming off of another successful season, winning the MVC championship and placing second at both the Class C South regional and Class C state championships.

Such success isn’t new to the Greyhounds, who are perennial state-championship contenders and winners of three state titles since 2015. As state champions graduate, the squad adjusts and retools with future state champions.

This winter, will be an adjustment like no other. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, instead of performing in front of judges and a packed venues, cheerleaders will perform and compete virtually.

“Preparing the girls for a virtual competition is definitely different this year,” Lisbon coach Nicole Adams said. “Not having a crowd to perform in front of will definitely be a challenge. My athletes feed off the energy at competitions.”

This year’s Greyhounds will be a lot smaller than last season, having lost Madi Valcourt, Vannessa Wasielewski, Emma Cleaves, Mykayla Harrington and Oceana Assignon to graduation.

Instead, Lisbon will rely on the veteran presence of Maddy Ryder and Riece St. Amant for this unique season.

“They are determined. I have two amazing seniors that have returned with incredible attitudes,” Adams said. “We are making it fun, while still pushing ourselves to improve. They continue to amaze me with how strong they all are.”

LEWISTON BLUE DEVILS

The Blue Devils have been cheering together for several years, and they hope their longstanding bond will give them a boost this season.

“This team amazes us with their flexibility, they have continued to adapt at every turn,” Lewiston co-coach Torey Reny said. “We were preparing virtually for a season before we knew if there was going to be a season. Once we were able to practice in person, you could see the difference in the team, their personalities came out and practices have been positive.”

Reny also said the team has responded to the urgency of the shortened season, and the athletes have been quick learners.

The team’s objective for competition is to create a safe routine this year.

“Our goals this year is to build this team’s confidence and put out a fun, energized and safe routine,” Reny said. “We are lucky to have this season together and are grateful we get the opportunity to compete.”

LEAVITT HORNETS

The competitive juices are flowing for the Hornets this season. Leavitt is coming off winning the 2020 Class B KVAC championship and placing second at the Class B South regionals and fourth at the Class B state championship.

“Of course, we want to be competitive, because this is competition cheerleading, however, the focus for us as a team is giving these athletes a season and to feel confident about what we put on the floor,” Leavitt coach Andrea Keneborus said.

The Hornets started practices on Jan. 27 and have been adjusting to the idea of virtual competition.

“Virtual events are certainly different, but at least it’s something for these athletes,” Keneborus said.

OXFORD HILLS VIKINGS

High hopes abound for Oxford Hills. The 2020 Class A KVAC champion finished third at the Class A North regionals and fourth at the Class A state championship.

“The cheerleaders have come to practice with great attitudes, positive energy and a determined work ethic to better themselves at each practice,” Oxford Hills coach Deb Loveless said. “We have a talented group returning from last year, and our four newcomers add dimension to our team.”

The Vikings have 11 returners in addition to the four newcomers, and aren’t fazed by the shortened season.

“The idea of a shortened season hasn’t really been a major issue,” Loveless said. “In fact, they seem to thrive off of the pressure to learn a routine quickly and fast, and then to perform at a level that they feel is expected after two, three months of practicing every day … after having an entire year off. They have definitely surprised us as coaches.”

GRAY NEW GLOCESTER PATRIOTS

The Patriots are thankful for the work that has gone into them being able to have a season this winter.

“Though our routine will look different, our athletic director Susan Robbins and the district administration have gone above and beyond to give us every opportunity to succeed,” Gray-New Gloucester Melissa Burila said. “We are blessed to be in such a great community. We have had altered gym time, necessary mat cleanings, and video equipment made available. Our custodians have worked so hard to keep us all in a position to be successful, and we could never have had this opportunity without the hard work of everyone behind the scenes.”

Burila has tried to keep practices light this year, taking into account the strange year the athletes have experienced. But the goal is still to put together a quality routine.

“Our goals are always to be the best we can be as a team, which is different every year,” Burila said. “Because there will be no regional competition, all cheer teams will make states this year. Finishing our routine and successfully submitting it virtually will be the biggest goal. And we are OK with that. Many teams have not had a season, so we will be appreciative of each moment we have together.”

POLAND KNIGHTS

The Knights are trying to navigate the changes to the cheer season brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Adjusting to a virtual format for practices has been interesting and challenging,” Poland coach Tammy Swett said. “It was interesting deciding on what online resources were useful and benefitted the team. The biggest challenge we faced was having space at home that was conducive for practicing skills, drills and doing workouts. In all, we made it work and we discovered that having time to connect was the most important. Most of the students hadn’t seen each other in quite some time, and this winter season has provided a much-needed social outlet.”

Skill development will be one of the keys to this season.

“Our team goals this year are to create a routine that we are proud of, work to strengthen and develop new skills, and enjoy a little bit of normalcy of being a part of a team,” Swett said.

MOUNTAIN VALLEY FALCONS

The Falcons are excited for the depth that has been added to the program this season after third-place finishes at the MVC and Class C South regional championships last winter.

“We have doubled in size this year and are super excited to welcome the new cheerleaders to our team,” Mountain Valley coach Josette Duguay said.

They have added senior Nicole Pelletier and junior Mikayla Burse along with six freshmen.

“Even though this season isn’t considered ‘normal,’ we are excited to be together and working on our routine,” Duguay said. “Our goal this year is to have fun, work hard and stay healthy.”

BUCKFIELD BUCKS

Buckfield is rolling with the punches during the 2021 season.

“We Zoom and stay connected and meet when appropriate,” Vickie Dobson said. “A very small team with time setbacks and newcomers with no previous basing experience, and so all we want is to keep the sport alive, safe and have a good time. These girls work hard and are to be commended for hanging in there.”

Two of the newcomers are Asia Tisba and Giada Songini, who are exchange students from Italy.

The team has relied on team choreographer Cat Haley with the lack of practice time.

“Cat Haley has choreographed another well-done routine, but time is not on our side,” Dobson. “We have struggled with a late start, COVID shutdowns and weather, which are all out of our control.”

OAK HILL RAIDERS

The Raiders are young but also experienced.

“Young and talented group, all coming into the season with experience and great attitudes,” Oak Hill coach Louise Gauthier said.

Oak Hill has only two upperclassmen, senior Kiara Levesque and junior Amanda Beaule.

The Raiders’ main objective this season is to work hard.

“Our goal with this shortened season is to work hard and enjoy being back on the cheer mat,” Gauthier said. “These lady Raiders are talented, and are ready to give it their all.”

DIRIGO COUGARS

The Dirigo Cougars have six returners and are using this winter as a season of development.

“We’re small this season and in good shape with a strong group of returning athletes,” Dirigo coach Ami-Jo Greco said. “Looking forward to a season focused on team building and skills to prepare for future seasons. This is a hard-working group of athletes that will make the most of the season and support each other in skill growth.”

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