The Monmouth Academy cheerleading team poses for a photo with the Class C State championship trophy the won last month. The team is, front row, from left, Kyleigh Gowell, Alicen Burnham, Brooklyn Sederico; second row, from left, Mara Poulin, Delaney Houston, Jacob Umberhind, Crystal Frandsen and Lily Turcotte. Missing from the photo is Olivia Degan. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

One bobble during the taping of its Mountain Valley Conference championship routine was only a little problem for the Monmouth cheering team.

However, a bobble on the final stunt of the Mustangs’ Class C state championship performance two weeks later felt like it could have been the end of their title-winning dreams.

The Monmouth cheering team earned the program’s ninth state title this year. Michelle Rooney photo

It turned out that, even with the late blemish, Monmouth was good enough to win the Class C crown.

“Even with a few bobbles we pushed through and didn’t let it affect the rest of the routine,” senior captain Alicen Burnham said. “When watching the video, the mistakes that we thought were drastic seemed minor because we were able to take all of the conditioning we had done and endurance we had grown throughout the season and act on our mistakes to hit a solid routine.”

For Burnham specifically, the state title was the culmination of a lifelong odyssey. She was just an infant when her mother Leanne Yeaton Burnham coached the Mustangs to their most recent state title in 2002.

“I’ve grown up around cheerleading since I was five days old. I can’t remember a year that I haven’t gone to the (Augusta) Civic Center in awe of all of the cheerleaders performing. I watched my mom’s team win championships for Monmouth Academy and dreamed of one day raising a trophy of my own,” Burnham said. “Last year it was a regional title and this year it was a state championship. I couldn’t be prouder to raise the trophy as a senior at MA and finish off my career as a state champion.”

The state championship, the school’s ninth overall and in Class C, capped off a successful season for Monmouth. The team captured the Midcoast Athletic Center Invitational Class C title (a special competition for this season) and the Mountain Valley Conference championship before eking out a state championship victory.

The Monmouth Academy cheerleading squad won all three major events that it participated in this season. Michelle Rooney photo

That title run earns the Mustangs the honor of Sun Journal All-Region Cheerleading Team of the Year.

“After winning the MAC Invitational for Class C and MVCs, this enforced the idea to our team that we had the potential to win the state championship,” senior captain Delaney Houston said.

Head coach Brandon Ouellette said the team was on cloud nine after winning the MVC title by more than 10 points.

“Winning MVCs was the confidence boost they needed,” Ouellette said. “They felt they were good, but having someone (judges) outside your ‘bubble’ tell you you are, you then allow yourself to start believing in it.”

Houston and Burnham both said that winning states was the goal, especially coming off last year’s Class C South title.

After winning MVCs this year, the Mustangs didn’t rest on the laurels of their dominant showing, but instead got to work on trying to improve their routine for the taping of their state championship performance.

“As a team, we sat down and studied our MVCs video and studied the score sheets,” Burnham said. “We all thought of things that we could improve on or change individually and then acted on them to improve our routine as a whole. We also took some of the judges’ feedback to know what we could improve in each of our scoring ranges to exceed maximum points.”

Working with a changed set of rules and score sheet due to the pandemic was a challenge, Houston said.

The Monmouth Academy cheer team poses for a photo with their Class C state championship trophy. Front row: Kyleigh Gowell, Alicen Burnham, Brooklyn Federico. Second row: Mara Poulin, Delaney Houston, Jacob Umberhind, Crystal Frandsen, Lily Turcotte. Missing from photo: Olivia Degan Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“For me, I lost my favorite part of cheerleading, which is the pyramid because I love how it takes every single athlete to work together to create something memorable,” Houston said. “Having the score sheet changes also made it so we did not have a cheer in our routine, and other sections like tumbling were worth more points than previous years.

“As a team, we had to focus on skills that would get us the most points, so we could max out the score sheet. This forced our team to grow and work even harder for the title.”

Houston said the team worked for four months on trying to perfect the routine.

And it wasn’t an easy one, according to Ouellette.

“The stunts that the team did this year were very hard and unique. I think that is what made this team stand out,” Ouellette said. “The athletes worked very hard on being tight and synchronized. The dance was very fast — quick and very upbeat. And the team also worked on the little things that can add up and take the title away.”

Ouellette said this year’s team didn’t like making mistakes. Houston said that stemmed from Ouellette instilling in them the importance of a clean routine.

Kyleigh Gowell, right, fixes Alicen Burnham’s hair bow Wednesday in the Monmouth Academy high school gym before the Monmouth cheer team’s team photo and celebration for winning the Class C state championship. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

In the end, it was a clean sweep of major competition wins for the Mustangs.

“This team set a goal: They wanted to add dates (years) on the banners in the gym — and they did it,” Ouellette said. “(Assistant coach Laurie Gifford and I) showed them the moves, gave them the tools and those nine athletes did it.”

Along with Burnham and Houston, the Mustangs’ title-winning group consisting of juniors Crystal Frandsen, Lily Turcotte, Mara Poulin, Kyleigh Gowell and Jacob Umberhind (also a captain), and sophomores Brooklyn Federico and Olivia Degan.

“This year we weren’t a team, we were a family,” Burnham said. “We came together during one of the hardest years and each of us wanted to improve ourselves and improve each other. I can’t say that any of us ever walked in to practice and didn’t want to be there.

“This team was one of a kind. I’ve never felt more at home than I do when I’m with my girls and Jake.”

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