BANGOR, Maine — Perfection is elusive, if not impossible, in cheerleading.

So when their routine didn’t exactly go off without a hitch on Saturday morning, the girls on the Central Aroostook team didn’t dwell on their mistakes.

Despite dealing with illness and some mistakes during their performance, the Panthers from Mars Hill claimed their third consecutive Class D cheerleading state championship at the Cross Insurance Center.

“We’re all very proud of each other, because some things did go as they were supposed to and then we just kept going,” said senior Elizabeth Gillen. “The smiles got bigger and bigger and we just kept pushing. That’s what’s most important, we really came together today.”

Coach Sami Allen’s Panthers, who two weeks ago earned the Class D North/South regional title, scored 61.8 points to hold off a determined effort by runner-up Penobscot Valley of Howland (59.1 points).

Bangor Christian was third (59.0), followed by Machias (58.7), Fort Fairfield (57.0) and Deer Isle-Stonington (53.2).

Central Aroostook added a few new elements to boost its degree of difficulty, but some of those stunts did not hit.

“The result was amazing, but it was not our best performance,” Allen said. “Today, the stunts that never went wrong kind of went wrong.”

The Panthers had one early pyramid come unglued and another formation included a fall. The girls were undeterred.

“I saw it out of the corner of my eye and I was like, keep going, keep going, everything is going to be OK,” said Gillen, who was ill before the competition.

“Even though you want to just break down and cry, you’ve just got to keep pushing,” she added.

Anchored by seniors Sheratin Kelly, Dayna Collins, Victoria Brewer, Noelle Bailey and Gillen, Central Aroostook came out on top. The team also features juniors Emilee Durost, Halee Rusby and Sarah Gerritsen, sophomores Taia Tilley, Holly O’Leary, Lillian Mahan, Michaela Pelletier, Chloe Wheeler and Keara McCrum, and freshmen Jillian Tweedie and Olivia Pelletier.

Allen pointed to the girls’ ability to keep smiling throughout the routine as a reflection of their positive attitude.

“(The key) is everyone stepping up and being a team,” she said. “It’s everybody being supportive of each other.”

It was the school’s 12th cheerleading state title.

“I am so excited,” Gillen said. “It is such a sigh of relief to be able to say I got three state championships in my high school career. I’ll remember this day for ever and ever.”

Runner-up Penobscot Valley closed out its season with another well-rounded routine. Coach Heidi Sullivan’s squad executed a nice sequence of jumps early on and clicked on some up-and-down lifting action in one of its pyramid sequences.

The Howlers were represented by seniors Taylore Crawford, Jasmyne Savage, Jennah Stanley and Madison Jenkins, juniors Molly LeBlanc, Tori Watts, Christine Brown, Makenzie Plourde, Lindsay Michaud, Millie Richard, Isaac St. Cyr, Paige Thibodeau and Ariel Rosario, and freshmen Julie Rogers and Carley Junkins.

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...