BANGOR, Maine — Watching coach Leslie Tuell celebrate virtually every element of her Orono High School team’s routine on Saturday afternoon, it was clear the Red Riots were performing at a high level.

The judges were in complete agreement.

Orono continued its rise to the top of Class C North cheering ranks this season, scoring 75.3 points to claim its first regional title at the Cross Insurance Center.

The Red Riots had won the Penobscot Valley Conference crown on Monday.

“They knew they could do this,” Tuell said. “We took first at PVCs and they did great, but our score went up 10 points. We didn’t have the wobbles, the bobbles, in the stunts today.”

Orono bested runner-up Central of Corinth (69.0) by more than six points, while Houlton (64.6) took third place. Sumner of East Sullivan (62.6), Dexter (54.2) and Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln (50.0) rounded out the list of six teams that advance to the state championships Feb. 6 in Bangor.

Tuell’s exuberance during the routine was part of a strong support system enjoyed by the Orono team.

“When they scream, that’s when we know we’re doing good and that’s what really motivates us,” junior Amber Westley said of Tuell and assistant coach Gage Alley, who also was animated in his reactions.

“Our whole boys basketball team showed up for us today and half of the girls team, so that was cool, added sophomore Ally Jones.

Orono used 19 members of its 22-person squad, which includes two boys, in its run for the title. The Red Riots were adept with their lifts and crisply elevated girls above their heads throughout the performance.

The team was able to overcome a tough week that included Monday’s PVCs, midterm exams and bouts of illness. And this Orono squad was in a relatively unfamiliar position.

“We were all very nervous,” Westley said.

“We got first before [at PVCs], so everyone was kind of targeting us, picking out everything we did, so that was a lot of pressure,” she added.

The Red Riots rose to the occasion behind a group of eight juniors: Isabelle Bowie, Chase Bruton, Audrey Carroll, Hannah Gatchell, Samantha Kenney, Kaitlyn Kuwik, Ashley Smith and Westley.

The squad also features sophomores Riley Bowie, Alexus Brown, Harriet Card-Willard, Ashley Connole, Michelle Haverlock, Emily Innis, Madelin Marks, Becky Tocci, Tony Manev, Sydney Stiehl and Jones, along with freshmen Jordan Bagley, Camille Kohtala and Audrey Smith.

“They went out and nailed it,” Tuell said. “I could not have asked for them to do better today.”

Orono prevailed despite not having a senior on its roster for the second straight year.

“Honestly, it makes us closer because we didn’t have anyone who left the team, so we’ve all been together for two years for the most part,” Kuwik said.

Central, which placed third in the regional a year ago and third at the recent PVCs, took another step toward putting an entire routine together.

Coach Kristy Strout said she told her team that, “I needed them to show the judges and the crowd their best, because we had not shown our best yet, and they came out and — other than that minor pyramid mishap — did exactly what I asked.”

Senior Ciearria Cookson explained that the Red Devils tried to use the memories of prior successes as motivation.

“We’ve won the state championship before, so we kind of pushed them and told them that it feels so awesome,” she said.

Strout said Central was able to tighten up its efforts and avoid making the kind of little mistakes that can pile up.

“We really just worked on cleanup. We cleaned up stunts, we cleaned up motions and they did what we asked,” she said.

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...