New Englands-bound: Medomak Valley set to take act on roadPanthers compete against best of best March 22 in Lawrence, Mass.
Waldoboro — The Medomak Valley High School cheering squad has earned lofty distinctions in recent years under the guidance of head coach Rachel Coor and the Panthers will add to those amazing experiences when they participate in the New England championship competition on Saturday, March 22 at Lawrence High School in Lawrence, Mass.
It is the fourth straight year the Panthers have earned the right to compete in the New Englands, but the first time they will attend the event.
The Regional School Unit 40 Board approved the cheering squad's trip to the New Englands at its Thursday, March 6 meeting, said Panther coach Rachel Coor.
The Panthers, who finished second at the state Class B competition, first in the Western Class B regional and second at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B competition this winter, include Alyssa Ducharme, Shania Melvin, Paige Russell, Olivia Ryan, Ashlee Wilson, Stephanie Hill, Cassie Dever, Amanda Poland, Hannah Wile, Whitney Dow, Hannah Smith and Courtney Ducharme.
Coor is the head coach and Heather Simmons is the assistant coach. It is Coor's sixth and final season leading the Panthers. She said she is excited for her student-athlete's upcoming opportunity.
"Parents have all stepped up and offered to drive their own child to the event, so it's coming at no cost to the district," Coor said of the trip.
Coor said the New England competition schedule will not be available until the week before the event.
She said the top three teams at the state championships (Classes, A, B, C and D for Maine) from all the New England states qualify, but participation is optional. At the New Englands, there are five divisions — I, II, III, IV, and coed — all based on school enrollments.
The Panthers will compete in Division II.
Hermon won the state title and Ellsworth finished third in Class B. Both qualified for the New Englands but will not attend, Coor said.
"When one of the top three teams opts out, the fourth-place team is given the option to go, and Leavitt [of Turner, the fourth-place team in Class B] has decided to take that opportunity, so they will be competing in Division II also," Coor said.
"We've qualified [for the New Englands] four years in a row, but didn't feel like we were ready to compete at that level until this year," the coach said. "And, quite honestly, usually by the time states are over, the kids are burnt out, and practicing for an additional six weeks isn't realistic. This team is different though — they are super excited about representing Maine and they are continuing to work unbelievably hard to make their skills better."
Coor said the other New England states will hold their state championship competitions the weekends of March 8 and 15, while Maine held its state competition on Feb. 8 — which would be six weeks from the time the Panthers competed in the states to the New England event.
"I have no idea who our competition is going to be or what our chances are," Coor said. "A top-three finish [for us] would be amazing, but, as always, we'll be happy with their best effort. It's a great opportunity for these kids and we're hoping they enjoy the experience."
Under Coor's guidance, the Panthers have won four straight regional titles, finished among the top three in the state several times and won league championships.
In 2013-14, the Panthers finished second at the states and KVACs, and won the regional crown. In 2012-13, Medomak Valley finished second at the KVACs, won the regional title and finished third at the states. In 2011-12, the Panthers won the KVAC and regional championships, and finished third at the states. In 2010-11, Medomak Valley was third at KVACs, second at the regional and 10th at states. In 2009-10, the Panthers were second at the KVACs (also won the league's most improved award) and eighth in the regional (Eastern Class B that year) and missed qualifying for the states by a mere 3.3 points.
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Ken Waltz has been member of the media 30 years and has received hundreds of Maine Press Association and New England Press Association awards for his writing, photography and page design. He studied journalism at the University of Maine in Orono. He lives in South Thomaston with his wife, Sarah. The couple has an adult son, Brandon.
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