BANGOR, Maine — A lack of recent practice time was no deterrent Saturday for the Central Aroostook of Mars Hill Panthers, who continued their dominance of Class D North/South cheering at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
Central Aroostook, which has won the last three state titles and eight in the past nine years, scored 62.8 points at the regional qualifying meet to top second-place Penobscot Valley of Howland (60.8).
Machias (58.2), Fort Fairfield (52.8), Woodland (46.8) and Buckfield (40.3) also qualified for states, scheduled for Feb. 11 at the Augusta Civic Center.
Central Aroostook coach Sami Jo Allen wasn’t sure how her team would perform at the regional given that the Panthers had limited preparation time due to Mother Nature and game obligations.
“We lost Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s practices due to the big snowstorm we got, and before that we hadn’t had practice since the prior Wednesday so we went a whole week without practicing and we thought it was really going to affect us big time,” she said.
“We also didn’t have a very good showing at [the Aroostook County meet] up in Caribou so we didn’t know how this was going to go.”
Central Aroostook scored 53.9 points to finish third behind Houlton and Presque Isle at the Aroostook County championships a week earlier, but the Panthers were able to total nearly 10 more points while winning their latest regional crown.
“It was a big improvement,” Allen said. “The girls and Jack [Schafer] came very focused on Thursday night, they were ready to practice and it turned out to be one of the best practices that I think we’ve ever had. We became a family that night. Everybody worked hard, they wanted to be there. It was a good feeling.”
“We had two snow days and a game in the past week, so we pulled it all together in two practices pretty much,” Central Aroostook senior Sarah Gerritsen added.
Penobscot Valley, which was coming off a Class D-best third-place finish at the Penobscot Valley Conference championships, placed second at the North/South regional for the second straight year.
“They all love this sport, and I tell them to go out on the mat and show the judges and the fans that they love the sport,” Penobscot Valley head coach Heidi Sullivan said. “When they do that they perform to the top.”
The champion Central Aroostook squad consists of seniors Emilee Durost, Halee Rusby and Gerritsen; juniors Hunter Nicholson, Lillian Mahan, Holly O’Leary, Michaela Pelletier, Chloe Wheeler and Kara McCrum; sophomores Jillian Tweedie and Olivia Pelletier; and freshmen Mersaydez Johnston, Alyssa Tilley, Gracie Giberson and Jack Schafer.
Members of the runner-up Penobscot Valley team are seniors Molly LeBlanc and Tori Watts; juniors Christine Brown, Haley Carr, Lindsay Michaud, Makenzie Plourde, Millie Richard, Isaac St. Cyr and Paige Thibodeau; sophomore Julie Rogers and freshmen Indica Rosano and Gabby Thibodeau.