AUGUSTA, Maine — Lewiston cheering has borne the burden of building and maintaining a dynasty at the conference, regional, state and New England levels.
One pressure the Blue Devils hadn’t experienced in that steady climb and lengthy stay atop the pyramid: Redemption.
They wore that motivation mind-bogglingly well Saturday. Lewiston erased the memories of last year’s state championship stumble at Augusta Civic Center with a performance for the ages, grabbing the Class A brass ring for a record seventh time in 13 years.
“You have no idea. (Last year) was brutal, but it was a team effort,” Lewiston coach Lynnette Morency said. “I had some kids here today that came down last year in states that were fighting some pretty big demons.”
Her advice to those athletes: Stay in the air, even if it meant the performance fell a notch or two shy of perfection. Lewiston’s degree of difficulty, with team members tumbling, aloft and even suspended upside-down throughout the routine, is usually great enough to overcome any minor miscues.
The Devils’ electrifying, energetic performance was clean, if not record-shattering, and head-and-shoulders closer to perfection than any of their rivals.
“There are things that we could have improved on, but for the most part what we wanted to do today was come in, hit our stunts and get it done, and we did,” Andrea Bonin said. “There’s really not anything we can be disappointed in.”
Lewiston scored 161.2 of a possible 175 points, breezing to victory over defending champion Biddeford (152.1), Noble of North Berwick (151.9), Bangor (149.1) and Gorham (147.3).
Co-captains Tia Cortes and Bonin are the lone seniors for Lewiston, which has won seven consecutive KVAC and six straight Class A East titles, and will shoot for its fourth successive New England championship in March.
“What really made the difference this year were the new girls that we had,” Cortes said. “They were all ready to work, and they were a big part of it.”
Never content to rest on its accomplishments while the opposition gains ground, Lewiston changed choreographers this winter.
The emphasis was to ramp up the tempo of the Devils’ routine.
“There was some bumping going on, with some transitioning, and we weren’t as clean as we could have been,” Morency said. “Instead of moving cleanly with our hands by our side, there’s a lot of this (arms waving), and it’s hard to clean that. Our dance this year was motion, motion, motion, motion, motion.”
Biddeford, Marshwood and Bangor all leapfrogged Lewiston on that disappointing day a year ago.
It cost the Devils’ seniors a chance to become the first four-time champions in Class A history. Even though the ensuing New England championship was business as usual, it didn’t alleviate the sting of a stumble in front of their largest in-state audience.
“It’s really weird to think that we went from fourth, and we’re back,” Bonin said. “Part of it made us better, because we didn’t have the pressure of having been previous champions. We didn’t have anything to prove. We did, and we didn’t. We had to prove that we were ready to fight back, but we didn’t have to prove to keep the spot.”
Only six schools have won the Class A title in its 22-year history. Biddeford and Bonny Eagle are five-time champions.
Lewiston faced its closest challenge in the KVAC meet Jan. 18, beating Bangor by a slim margin.
“It’s nice to bring it back,” Morency said. “I would have liked the scores to be a little bit better, but I guess you say, ‘And the winner is.’”
Other Lewiston team members are juniors Sadie Dulac, Meagan Murphy, Sierra Melanson, Amber Smith, Kerriarna Asselin, Taylor Hopkins, Gemma Smith and Olivia Bergeron; sophomores Morgan Allen, Kyla Hill, Tawni Zamrock, Ali Porter, Kaitlyn Beckwith, Jazmine Fournier, Maddie LeBlond and Hailee Ingerson; and freshmen Jenna Burton, Maggie Belleau, Kaitlin Gagnon and Maraeka Merchant.
“It means everything,” Cortes said. “We put so much hard work into this season, and we finally did it.”