BANGOR — Less than 48 hours after reorganizing their routine to accommodate two new freshman fliers, the Ellsworth Eagle cheerleaders delivered a near-flawless performance to win the Eastern Maine Class B championship on Saturday at the Bangor Auditorium.
Freshmen Mackenzie Myers and Morgan Barkhouse joined Katy Whitney at the top of the Eagle pyramids, replacing fliers Heather Holt and Emma Sweeney, who were grounded by broken hands suffered earlier in the week.
And as hundreds of fans looked on, the Eagles nailed their cheers, their tumbling, their pyramids and basket tosses to edge the Hermon Hawks for top honors in the 14-team competition.
And to top things off, the Eagles scored 145.7 points, which coaches Courtney Wright and Nikki Chan believe is the highest score ever for an Ellsworth cheering squad.
Saturday was a good day for Hancock County cheering squads with four of six advancing to the upcoming state championships on Saturday, Feb. 11, at the Augusta Civic Center.
The Mount Desert Island Trojans in Class B, the Sumner Tigers in Class C and the Deer Isle-Stonington Mariners in Class D all will be joining Ellsworth in Augusta.
The Eagles faced 36 hours of turmoil after Holt suffered an injury similar to Sweeney’s in Thursday’s practice.
Coach Wright said that, after dealing with Holt’s injury, the Eagle squad started making changes for the last 45 minutes of practice.
“We’d already made one of our bases [Barkhouse] a flier,” said Wright, “and we started working with Mackenzie. We pulled up Bailey Neale, who was an alternate, and everyone just really did their part.”
Myers had some experience in the air earlier in the season, but was grounded after a pulled hamstring.
Barkhouse had been a flier in middle school, said coach Chan, “and we knew she had the gymnastics skill to do what we needed her to do in the pyramid, so she tried it and she rose to the occasion.”
The Eagles had just three hours — 45 minutes before Thursday’s basketball game and a two–hour practice on Friday — to get ready for Saturday’s competition.
“And that made all the difference,” said Chan. “The girls had confidence and they were ready.”
That confidence showed on Saturday.
“You could see on their faces when the last stunt cradled that the energy was exuding out of every pore, that’s how much they wanted it,” said Wright. “Heather and Emma were sitting beside us crying while the last dance was going on because they were so proud of them.”
“We went into that day and told them that we’d done all that we could do,” said Chan. “The only thing we asked was that you give it all you’ve got and leave everything on the mat, and they totally did that.”
“I think we were still in shock when they announced Hermon’s name for second place,” said Wright. “It was unreal.”
For her part, Barkhouse was realizing a dream come true when she was tapped as a flier. “I got really excited,” she said, “because that’s always what I wanted to be when I was a little girl watching the cheerleaders.”
She said she got used “to being the one on top” in middle school and “then it was like second nature.”
Senior Cristin Wright was thrilled after Saturday’s performance.
“We were ready,” she said. “Our warm-up was awesome and we just knew we could do it. We work really well together as a team, coming together and overcoming the challenges.
“It just is a really great feeling,” she continued. “Hermon is a great team and we’re always back and forth with them.”
The Hawks, who edged Ellsworth for this year’s Big East and Penobscot Valley Conference titles, finished with 143 points, followed by John Bapst 130.6, Old Town 124.7 and MDI and Presque Isle with 112.8 each.
Other members of the EM champion Ellsworth squad include Marissa Boynton, Mariah Brown, Anna Jordan, Miranda Davis, Katey Curtis, Katherine Dickens, Katy Whitney, Brittany Handy, Brittany Moulton, Karla Butler and Katherine Spurgeon.
In the Class C competition, the Dexter Tigers took top honors with 134.6 points, followed by Central 133, Sumner 129, Orono 125.7, Houlton 123.2 and Calais 110.9.
The Bucksport Golden Bucks, with 101.9 points, and the George Stevens Academy Eagles, with 85.3 points, did not advance to the state competition.
In Class D, the Central Aroostook Panthers won their fifth consecutive title with 125.5 points.
They were followed by Woodland 111.2, Deer Isle-Stonington 109.6, Buckfield 105.6, Penobscot Valley 105.5 and Bangor Christian 98.3.