The Hermon Hawks perform the pyramid in their routine at the 2019 Class B regional cheerleading championship at the Cross Center. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Every cheer team in Maine has been granted a spot in this year’s open state championship competition, but that doesn’t mean teams are planning to skip regionals.

“The more time you can get the kids out in front of a crowd, the better,” said Hermon High School cheerleading coach Kristie Reed, who has led the Hawks to five straight Class B state titles and 11 championships in 12 years.

Her daughter, junior Lyndsee Reed, agreed.

“We love being in front of an audience,” said Lyndsee, who has cheered for all three years. “It’s way better [than virtual cheering]. There is something different about the atmosphere and pressure of being in front of people. It makes you push yourself a lot harder.”

After being held virtually last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person regional and state cheerleading competitions are making their return. The regional competitions are being held in Millinocket and Lewiston this weekend, and all teams will have an opportunity to continue to the state championship — but the feedback and results from this weekend are invaluable for teams hoping to take home a state title.

In previous years, only the top six teams from each regional class qualified for the state championships.

The Class B North, C North and D North/South regionals will be held at Stearns High School in Millinocket, while the A North and A, B and C South regionals will be at Lewiston High School. Class D North/South is one class composed of schools from the entire state.

Last weekend’s snowstorm forced the postponement of the regionals, which were going to be held at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor and the Augusta Civic Center.

This is Hermon’s third championship competition this season, as the Hawks have also performed at the Big East and Penobscot Valley Conference meets, winning Class B North in both.

Kristie Reed said the judges’ feedback on their performance at the regional competition is important information the team can use to prepare for states.

The judges do a write-up on a scoresheet of every performance at the regionals, pinpointing the pluses and minuses of each routine.

Relaying that information to her team carries more weight coming from the judges than it would be coming from her, Kristie Reed said.

She added that another reason the regionals are useful is because they create the seedings for the state meet.

The winners in each class will be the last two teams to perform in their classes at the state meet. Since Class D North/South is all one class, the regional champion and runner up will go last at the states.

“The order of the lineup is important and it serves as an incentive,” Kristie Reed said. “I like being the last team. By then, the judges have seen everything.”

The Hermon coach had her entire team available for just one week this season due primarily to COVID-19 protocols.

“This team has obviously had to handle more struggles from outside stuff than any of my previous teams,” said Reed, who has been at Hermon since 2008 after coming over from Brewer High School. “But this team has such a great personality.”

Hermon lost about half its team due to graduation and a few cheerleaders moving away.

The team has four experienced seniors in Alexa Raymond, Madison Higgins, Madison Despault and Alanna Berube, who have been leading the team along with Lyndsee Reed.

“We haven’t hit our peak. We’ve struggled with a few things. Whenever you have to replace kids in stunts, it’s not an easy fix,” coach Reed said. “But everyone is having fun and you can’t ask for more.”

In Millinocket, the B North regional will begin at 10 a.m., D North/South will follow at 12:30 p.m., and C concludes the competition beginning at 2:30.

In Lewiston, Class C South kicks things off at 9 a.m., Class A North begins at 11:15, Class A South starts at 2:30 p.m. and Class B South winds things up at 5.

Other defending state champions are Bangor in A, Monmouth Academy in C and Penobscot Valley of Howland in D.

The state championships will be held at the Augusta Civic Center next Saturday, Feb. 12.