Central Aroostook took first place in the class D north/south regional cheer competition at the Cross Insurance Center Saturday. Central Aroostook will head to the state championships in Augusta on Feb. 8, 2020. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

In line with other sports, every cheerleading squad will be allowed to participate in the state meet regardless of how they perform in the regionals on Saturday, Feb. 5, at Stearns High School in Millinocket and Lewiston High School.

During a normal year, the top six teams from each regional in Classes A, B and C will compose the 12-team state championship field in each class, and the top six from the North/South regional will move on to the Class D state meet.

The state championship competition will be held at the Augusta Civic Center on Feb. 12.

“This is somewhat consistent with all of our other activities,” said Mike Burnham, executive director of the Maine Principals Association, of the decision to allow all teams to participate.

Most sports have an open tournament this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning every team qualifies for the postseason rather than just a select percentage of teams based on their finish in the Heal Points standings.

Burnham also pointed out that due to the spike in COVID-19 cases, cheerleading teams have rarely been able to practice with a full squad available.

A number of schools have already decided not to participate in the regionals this weekend, with the most noticeable attrition being in Class D North/South. There are 17 teams in that one combined class but only six intend to compete in the regionals, Burnham said.

“Maybe now with an extra week of preparation, they will change their minds and participate,” said Burnham, referring to schools in any class.

Schools that don’t qualify based on their performances at the regionals need to let the MPA know on Feb. 7 if they intend to participate in the state meet.

“We need to develop the schedules,” said Burnham, who added that the schedules will be “modified” from their original regional format.

He doesn’t anticipate any teams that opt out of the regionals will want to go to states, but if they do Burnham said the MPA will take a look at the situation.

He is grateful to Stearns principal/athletic director Beth Peavey and Lewiston High athletic director Jason Fuller for their willingness to host the regionals, which had previously been scheduled for the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor and Augusta Civic Center on Jan. 29 but were postponed due to an expected storm.

Burnham said both facilities not only have a gym at the high school where the competition will be held, they also have gyms at their middle or elementary schools “where teams can have warm-up and practice time prior to the competition.”

In Lewiston, the teams will have to be bussed from one gym to the other, he said.

The regional and state cheerleading competitions were limited to virtual events a year ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Emerging as state titlists were Bangor High (Class A), Hermon (B), Monmouth Academy (C) and Penobscot Valley of Howland (D).