BANGOR — Central Aroostook High School isn’t used to losing. After all, the Panthers from Mars Hill entered Saturday’s cheering state championships at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor with four straight state titles and nine in the last 10 years.

So their 10.2-point loss to Penobscot Valley of Howland two weekends ago in the Class D regionals served as a wake-up call.

The Panthers responded, putting together a strong enough routine to tally 62.7 points and edge the Howlers by 2.6 points to win another state title. Machias was third with 51.8 points followed by Woodland (47.3), Bangor Christian (44.9) and Deer Isle-Stonington (44.7).

Central Aroostook coach Sami Jo Allen said they were in a quandary Friday night because one of her cheerleaders, Keara McCrum, suffered a knee injury and had to sit out practice. She wasn’t sure if McCrum would be able to perform on Saturday, “so we were just hoping to have a good, clean routine out there today.”

But the determined McCrum toughed it out and performed.

“It still wasn’t the best routine out there but we were very proud. We raised a lot of our points with our partner stunts and our pyramid which is what we needed to do so that we knew we could compete,” said Allen. “We knew we had to do something to get our points up.”

Central Aroostook’s score in the regional was 57.4 points.

Senior Chloe Wheeler said the Panthers displayed “hard work, determination and, today, we brought our sass and that’s won won it for us.

“We improved on all of our stunts (from the regionals), we improved on our motion technique and we brought the energy,” added Wheeler. “We showed the judges that we wanted it, that we worked hard for it and we proved we could do it.”

Senior Holly O’Leary said the team had a much better performance than the regionals and a big part of the reason was better team chemistry.

“When we went to the regionals, we weren’t a team. We weren’t holding hands, we were fighting. We’ve had a lot of team talks (since then) and we were a lot closer today,” said O’Leary, who added “we were really proud” of McCrum for performing despite her injury.

“That shows the dedication our girls have,” said Allen.

Senior Hunter Nicholson said they were all nervous at the regionals and “weren’t really ready to perform.”

“But we’ve worked really hard as a team the past couple of weeks preparing for states and trying to defend our title. We kept running (our routine) and running it and that’s what made us ready for today,” said Nicholson.

The other members of the Panthers were Hudson Bradbury, Megan Brewer, Emma Fletcher, Amy Gerritsen, Gracie Giberson, Elizabeth Hotham, Mersaydez Johnston, Lillie Mahan, Michaela and Olivia Pelletier, Jenna Rusby, Jack Schafer, Alyssa Tilley and Janelle and Jillian Tweedie. Allen is assisted by Brittni Morrison and Janice Mosher.

Penobscot Valley coach Heidi Sullivan said she knew it was going to be close and that she was pleased with her girls’ performance.

“There were a few mistakes. There were a few things that they’ve done better in practice. They just got out there and the adrenaline (was flowing),” said Sullivan. “But I was very happy with the routine. I was hoping for first place as well as my squad was but I was happy we got second.

“I was very proud of the way the girls went out there and showed their love of the sport. They did what they do best out there on the mat,” added Sullivan. “We upped our stunts more than what we had for the regionals but the judges scored a lot harder this time around than they did at the regionals, that’s for sure.”

Wheeler praised the Howlers, saying “They’re great competition. They did an awesome job.”

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