Houlton team cheers its way to Northern Regional crown

4 weeks ago

By Joseph Cyr, Special to The CountyME

AUGUSTA, Maine – For the first time in 13 years, the Houlton-Greater Houlton Christian Academy cheerleaders are Class C North regional cheering champions.

The Shires brought home a regional cheering championship, adding a new plaque and banner to the school’s trophy case, with a strong all-around performance. Houlton-GHCA bested a field of 12 other squads in Class C North, including fellow County teams from Central Aroostook and Fort Fairfield, to win the regional crown.

Coming into Saturday’s Regional Championship, the Shires had set a goal of placing within the top two at the regional competition, according to coach Maggie Small. But Saturday’s effort exceeded everyone’s expectations in a pleasant way. 

“This team continues to surprise me week after week,” Small said. “The unity they have shown since day one is undoubtedly a major contributor to their successful season. Watching the girls celebrate when they called Houlton for first place was one of my proudest moments as a coach.”

In what has become an almost annual tradition, the Shires advanced to the Class C state competition, set for Saturday, Feb. 10. The Class B state competition begins at 10 a.m., followed by Class C at 1 p.m. and the Class A event at 4 p.m. All three competitions will be held at the Augusta Civic Center. There is no Class D cheering this year, as the Maine Principals Association merged that Class into Class C due to a low number of participating schools.

Houlton seniors Ella McCarthy and Ariana Ardell share a hug in the post celebration of the Shires winning the Class C Regional competition Saturday in Augusta. (Photo courtesy of Cory Ardell)

The top eight squads from each region qualified for states, which means Central Aroostook will also have another chance to compete. The Panthers were a perennial champion in Class D for many years.

Presque Isle finished fifth in the Class B competition and will also be participating in the state championships. Caribou placed 13th.

Saturday’s competitions included both the north and south squads competing at the same event. 

Team scores for the Class C northern region were: 1, Houlton/Greater Houlton Christian, 64.4; 2, Dexter, 63; 3, Penquis, 54.3; 4, Central Aroostook, 54.1; 5, Calais, 49.2; 6, Mattanawcook, 47.4; 7, Foxcroft Academy, 43.25; 8, Woodland, 42.45; 9, Narraguagus, 40.9; 10, Machias, 40.6; 11, Penobscot Valley, 39.5; and 12, Fort Fairfield, 31.2.

Team scores for the southern region were: 1, Lisbon/St. Dominic, 74.75; 2, Orono, 68.7; 3, Sumner, 68.55; 4, Bucksport, 68; 5, Mountain Valley, 66.8; 6, Central, 60.95; 7, Bangor Christian, 58; 8, Sacopee Valley, 52.9; 9, Spruce Mountain, 46.9; 10, Monmouth/Winthrop, 44.1; 11, Maine Central Institute, 44.1; 12, Madison/Carrabec, 35.3; 13, Dirigo, 34.75; 14, Mt. View, 24.7; and 15, Boothbay, did not participate.

Small, then Maggie Russell, was a member of the last Houlton squad to win a regional title. She was a sophomore in 2011 when Houlton won both regional and state championships. The Shires also won states in 2006, 2004 and 1997 (Class B).

“The feeling of coming out on top at the Regional level is something I will never forget, and I am so happy that these girls got the chance to experience that too,” coach Small said. “It certainly makes the long practices and hard work worth it.”

Senior co-captain Ella McCarthy said, “I am so happy to know that the hard work we put in throughout our season has paid off. The team that we have is the best, I am so glad to spend my senior year with them.”

Senior Ariana Ardell said, “I am beyond grateful to be part of such an amazing group of girls. The dynamic of our team is unmatched and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” 

Junior co-captain Olivia Cyr added “I am so proud of our team and for their dedication that has gone into this year’s routine. The girls are all just so happy for each other and the friendships we have on the team are truly special.”

Members of the Houlton team are: Frankie Gilmour, Amelia Flewelling, Makala Sennett, Aubrey Swallow, Jaycee Forest, Hayden Belyea, Olivia Drake, Emily Bushey, Cyr, Ardell, McCarthy, Morgan Quirk, Emily Butterworth and Abby Grant. The assistant coach is Molly Dunn.

The Shires will now have a week to make any tweaks to their performance before the state competition. 

“We made a few minor changes from PVCs (Penobscot Valley Conference) to work on getting our execution scores up and really focused on timing so we could perform a clean routine,” Small said. “Our main goal for this week is to get our advanced and elite partner stunts consistently solid and make a few adjustments based on the judges comments from this past weekend.”