Last year, the Medomak Valley High School Panthers from Waldoboro captured their first state Class B cheerleading championship.
Their victory ended Hermon’s string of five state titles in a row, and 10 championships in 11 seasons.
Ellsworth finished third behind the two teams at that competition. This season, the Eagles are coming off triumphs in the Big East and B North Regional championships and want to claim their first state crown on Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center.
The Class D competition kicks things off at 10 a.m. with the Class A event to follow. The Class B and C competitions begin at 2 p.m.
It’s the second regional title since 2019 for Melanie Fox, who is in her 19th year as the Ellsworth High School coach and has shared the coaching chores with co-coach Kat Dickens the last nine seasons.
The Eagles have finished as state runners-up six times under Fox.
“We’ve had years when we’ve had teams with a lot of talent. And we’ve had years when our teams have had a lot of passion. This year, our team has both of those,” Fox said.
“These girls come in, put their heads down and go to work. They don’t complain. They do what we tell them they need to do and they get the job finished,” she added.
Fox said she and Dickens weren’t surprised by their team’s performances in the Big East and B North regional competitions.
“We were pleased with their performances. It gives them confidence. We knew they could do it but they needed to know they could do it,” Fox said.
Fox said her team has an “elite routine” that requires talent and athleticism to pull it off.
And that’s what they have.
Ellsworth’s five senior leaders are Rae Grant, Elizabeth Frost, Destiny Ray, Mariah Rossi and Mercedes Ulichny.
Ray will miss the state meet due to injury that has sidelined her for eight weeks.
And the Eagles have received a big boost from three gifted freshmen flyers in Noelle Towne, Ally Brown and Whitney Jordan.
“They are very grounded, very talented and very driven,” Fox said.
The other cheerleaders are junior Natalie Sawyer, sophomore Olivia Leighton and freshmen Molly Smith and Lily Alley.
The team will be highly motivated on Saturday.
“They want to be the first ones to bring home the state title,” Fox said.
She said there will be a lot of pressure at the competition and that there are a number of strong contenders, including Medomak Valley, Hermon and John Bapst of Bangor. John Bapst defeated Ellsworth at the PVC meet, in which the Eagles finished second.
“You have to be ready to perform. It’s anybody’s game,” Fox said.
In Class A, three different schools have won the last three championships.
Lewiston is the defending champ, Bangor won the virtual competition in 2021 and Biddeford won it the year prior to that.
In fact, since Brewer won the A title in 2007, the three schools have combined for 15 wins, including seven titles for Lewiston, six for Biddeford and two for Bangor.
Biddeford and Oxford Hills of South Paris were this year’s regional champions.
Dexter won the Class C North regional and will be looking for its first state championship since 2013. Dexter, runner-up Central High of Corinth and third-place Bucksport were separated by just half a point in the regional.
Lisbon-St. Dom’s of Auburn is the defending champ and won the C South regional. Lisbon also captured states in 2019 and 2017.
Class D is a combination of North and South schools and powerhouse Central Aroostook of Mars Hill won the regional comfortably by nearly 20 points over Bangor Christian and Penquis of Milo.
Central Aroostook won 12 Class D state championships during a 13-year span until Penobscot Valley of Howland dethroned the Panthers in 2021 and Monmouth/Winthrop captured the title a year ago.