Oxford Hills celebrates winning the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A cheering championships Jan. 21 at the Augusta Civic Center. The Vikings also won the A North regional title and the Class A state title. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Learning this season’s routine took seemingly no time for the Oxford Hills cheering team. But it wasn’t until the biggest competition of the season that the Vikings finally “hit” the routine.

That it took all season for a clean routine to happen didn’t stop Oxford Hills, which won conference and regional championships with admittedly less than its best. The Vikings then capped off championship season with their best performance of the year to win the Class A state title.

That dominance has earned Oxford Hills the title of Sun Journal All-Region Cheerleading Team of the Year.

“I think our goal throughout high school has just been to put our names on the banners in our gym,” senior Abby Fickett said. “Like, we always look up there every year and we’re like, ‘We really want to do it this year.’ But we finally got it together; we have a good team, and we finally did it this year.”

It wasn’t a given at the beginning of the season that this was going to be a memorable one for the Vikings.

“Going into the season, we had no idea. We had a lot of cheerleaders not come back this year. We had a new crop come in, which we didn’t really know that we had until the first day,” longtime coach Deb Loveless said. “We had no expectations of this group this year until we started practicing. And then had choreography, and we realized the potential of this group, and where it could go, and they kept working and working. They were good friends. They would work together. Something went wrong, they would keep doing it, going at it until they could do it again.”


The unknown soon turned into the undeterred — and eventually the unstoppable.

“I would say within a couple of weeks I thought this team really just surprised,” assistant coach Jess Brooks said. “We were having practices at the Armory right in town (Norway), and they started hitting stunts that I didn’t think would be possible for, you know, maybe even a month in, and they were hitting them solid. And I just thought, ‘Oh, this is a different caliber we’re dealing with right now.’

“And they kept working just crazy hard every day. They wanted a routine every day. They came in, they did the same thing day after day, and they didn’t really stray much from changing up the schedule. They wanted just a set routine, and it was great. I kind of think we knew fairly quickly that this was a team that was going to turn heads.”

The Vikings first turned heads at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships, defending their Class A conference crown with a dominant performance. Oxford Hills earned a score of 82.4 points — nearly nine points better than runner-up Lewiston (73.55 points).

That win gave the Vikings confidence, but they proceeded with caution.

“I feel like at the beginning of the year — like winning KVACs last year, it gave us the thought (that we could compete with the top teams), but I feel like we didn’t really understand that people were gunning for us, and they were coming back, and we couldn’t just put in the same amount of work that we did before KVACs because everyone was working harder than us,” senior Lizzy Hallee said. “So we kind of came to that realization this year that we won KVACs, but the work wasn’t done.”


Loveless said that after KVACs — a competition at which she notified her cheerleaders that she would be retiring after 35 years — the team was competing against itself. That meant working for points and fractions of points every practice.

It paid off, as Oxford Hills won the Class A North title with a better score (82.9) than at KVACs. And the Vikings’ margin of victory over second place was greater, too, beating defending state champ Lewiston by 12.9 points.

“After last year, winning KVACs, we had so much hope for regionals (before finishing third). And so this year, I feel like when we won (regionals), we were all a little surprised,” senior Maddie Striegel said. “It was definitely a pleasant surprise. But I think none of us wanted that feeling to go away. And so we just kept working even harder, and we’d come in on Saturdays, and we were just going to do anything it took to keep winning.”

So hungry for their first state title since 2000, the Vikings, according to Loveless, took the seemingly drastic step of making an adjustment to a pyramid on the day of the Class A state championships.

They then hit their routine clean for the first time all season, but they still sweated out the reporting of the final team standings.

“To hear our name called for the third time (this season) — it was crazy hearing Lewiston get called second because it was like, ‘Is it us?’ It’s either us or it’s not. And they were our one rival, and us wanting to beat them was crazy,” Hallee said. “So hearing them as second, it gave us hope that we were first. So we kind of put our heads down and hoped for the best. And hearing our name called was amazing and kind of surreal.”


“When they called the second-place team, I definitely got chills,” Striegel added. “And then when the cameraman came up and set up right in our circle, my heart was racing. I felt like it took forever to call our name. I was overjoyed. I was so excited I couldn’t believe it.”

The Vikings truly were at their best at states, scoring 89 points to capture the crown. They needed that good of a performance, as Lewiston was close behind with a score of 87.1 points.

Oxford Hills finished its season by competing in the New England championship. It was the first time at that competition for any of the team’s members, including the trio of Fickett, Hallee and Striegel, who missed out their freshman year when the competition was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The other team members this season included Jaidyn-Lynn Daigle, Alexza Dunham, Lauren Frye, Natalie Gray, Kelsi Laplante, Lauren Millett, Adrianna Mills, Samantha Mills, Eleanor Nareff and Brealynn Record.

The fifth-place finish in Division 1 at New Englands was both a surprise and a sense of accomplishment for the Vikings.

“We went into the day kind of being like, ‘Oh, well we’re just happy to have this experience. Like it doesn’t really matter what place we come in,'” Fickett said. “But as we were watching the other teams perform, we were like, ‘Wow, we really want to do good today. We really want to hit. It’s our last time performing.’ So we made the best of it and we put out a pretty good routine.”

Oxford Hills’ state champion cheerleaders celebrate with the school’s girls basketballl players after the basketball team won the Class AA state championship on March 6. Lee Horton/Sun Journal

The Vikings’ cheering team was able to add to what has already been a banner school year for Oxford Hills sports, including state titles for the football and girls basketball teams.

“They know that it’s a lot of hard work to win a championship, and these cheerleaders put in that work,” Loveless said. “They just bought into it. They knew they had to do it. They knew they had to just keep doing it over and over again. And they strived to hit their routine at states, which they did do, because at KVACs and at regionals, something went wrong in both of those routines, and at states it did not. And they performed their best, and they were great, they were phenomenal, which was awesome.”

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