AUGUSTA — Apparently it does not matter whether the competition is virtual or in-person because the Medomak Valley cheer squad always is ready to show what it can do, and if the Panthers perform to their capabilities, they will challenge for the top spot.

Resiliency obviously suits the Panthers, who have overcome what ever has been thrown at them to rise to the top.

Of course, hard work, dedication and talent — along with consistent guidance from coaches — has put the Panthers in position to annually challenge for league, regional and state titles.

Medomak Valley’s Braelyn Hood, middle, and other cheerleaders wait for the announcement of the top teams. Photo by Holly Vanorse Spicer

Thus, it is no surprise when the Panthers returned to in-person competition on Saturday morning, Jan. 22 and again proved the best in their league and class.

The Panthers captured their sixth straight Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B championship — and eighth since 2011 — at the Augusta Civic Center. There was no league meet in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Medomak Valley performs at the KVACs. Photo by Holly Vanorse Spicer

After a one-year hiatus, competitive, in-person, high school cheering has returned to large, statewide venues.

The Panthers have won 10 straight regional titles and annually are in the mix for the state Class B crown, including a runner-up finish in last year’s virtual championships.

Belfast competes at the KVACs. Photo by Holly Vanorse Spicer

On Saturday, Medomak Valley finished first, while two Waldo County squads were expected to compete, but only one did.

Belfast finished seventh, while Mount View of Thorndike was scheduled to participate, but did not after being hit with COVID-19 issues, said Mustang athletic director Krysta Porter. Another local team, Oceanside of Rockland, has a cheer program this winter, but will not compete.

Belfast competes at the KVACs. Photo by Holly Vanorse Spicer

Eleven teams were on-hand Saturday to compete at the KVAC Class B championship.

The KVAC Class B team scores, with the team’s place, four judges’ scores and total score listed, were: Medomak Valley, 14.1, 18, 15 and 16.7 for 63.8; Leavitt of Turner, 16.9, 14.9, 17.5 and 12.7 for 62; Winslow, 13.1, 14, 13.8 and 15 for 55.9; Morse of Bath, 11.5, 13.3, 14 and 14.4 for 53.2; Erskine Academy of South China, 11.8, 9.7, 12.5 and 11.4 for 45.4; Nokomis of Newport, 9.4, 8, 13.5 and 12.7 for 43.6; Belfast, 9.8, 7.7, 8.8 and 11.8 for 38.1; Lawrence of Fairfield, 9. 6.8, 11.5 and 9.4 for 36.7; Brewer, 9.4, 7, 8 and 11.6 for 36; Lincoln Academy of Newcastle, 9.1, 7.6, 9 and 10.2 for 35.9; and Gardiner, 6.7, 7, 8.5 and 7 for 29.2.

Team members for Medomak Valley, led by head coach Heather Simmons and assistant coach Rachel Coor, include Greg Cifaldo, Emily Mahoney, Lizzi Swan, Chloe Achorn, Aaliyah Thompson, Skylah Ward, Samantha Richardson, Alyssa Grindle, Braelyn Hood, Hope Mason and Ashlyn Ward. Mahoney was unable to compete on Saturday.

Team members for Belfast, coached by Chelsea Morrison and Alyssa Harriman, include Sierra Davis, Catrina Mathis, Angela Benitez, Gemma Bradney, Harley Wellman, Kaylee Henderson, Annabelle Lisa, Kody Mailloux, Marina Bannister, Mali Inman, Becca Gary, Leah Moores and Nevaeh Bradstreet.

The KVACs originally were scheduled for Monday, Jan. 17, but was postponed due to inclement weather.

Regional competitions are set for Saturday, Feb. 5 (changed from Jan. 29 due to impending winter storm), with the top six from two regions (north and south) to compete in the state championships on Saturday, Feb. 12 at the Augusta Civic Center.

Medomak Valley competes in Class B South, Belfast in Class B North and Mount View in Class C North.

Medomak Vallery performs at the KVACs. Photo by Holly Vanorse Spicer

Class B and Class C North competitions will be at Stearns High School in Millinocket (they were to be at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor), while Class B South will take place at Lewiston High School instead of the the Augusta Civic Center.

Last year, regional and state championship competition were held virtually, with each team sending a video of their performance — created in the school’s gymnasiums — to be judged. This was due to the pandemic, which affected many sports last winter and most sports since March 2020.

While COVID-19 still prevalent and affecting — and infecting — people, teams masked-up and took the floor in front or large crowds after a year of virtual competition.

“This has been a difficult season to navigate,” said coach Simmons. “As with all teams, trying to coach with missing kids every week has been tough … Cheer is not a sport where we can just put a substitute in. It takes months for athletes to be in condition and comfortable with the skills they need to perform.

“This season we packed our routine full of difficulty, really shooting for a state-winning routine and every week we have had to change or adjust due to kids getting COVID or other illnesses. Twelve days — five days quarantine and seven-day return-to-play protocol — is a long time for an athlete to be sidelined and if it happens to fall during our three weeks of competition season they are done. We have been blessed to have athletes that work extremely hard in the off-season and have been able to step into very high-stress positions on the floor.

Medomak Valley competes at the KVACs. Photo by Holly Vanorse Spicer

“While the whole team has had to remain positive, sophomore Alyssa Grindle and senior Emily Mahoney really stepped up these past few weeks to make us able to compete at KVACs. The whole team believes in themselves and each other that they are going to get the job done no matter what. We just keep playing the hand we are dealt from week to week and hope for the best. Proud is an understatement — determination and attitude have been key all season.”

Medomak Valley has won KVAC Class B titles in 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021 (a league competition was not held in 2020).

“Practices have been going great,” said Belfast co-coach Chelsea Morrison before the league meet. “We’ve been very fortunate to be minimally affected by the pandemic. We’ve only had two girls quarantined over winter break. They work super hard and as a new team, only being in our fifth year, they’ve progressed a little more every year. I’m very proud of them.”

Belfast performs at the KVACs. Photo by Holly Vanorse Spicer

“We have worked really hard to get the program where it is now,” said Lion co-coach Alyssa Harriman before the league meet. “This year we have almost doubled our number of kids participating.”

Team members for Mount View, coached by Carol Bryant, Julie Aspinall and Britni Bryant, include Emma McPherson, Alexa Coffin, Kayla Holcomb, Macala Parks, Kelsea Doughty, Lexi Cluney, Sydney Bishop, Desirae Brown, Ethan Bryant, Kaylee Hamilton, Eliana Rumney, Camille Dumais and Hailie Howe.

Team members for Oceanside, coached by Stefani Gundel, include Addie Hendricks, Alice Attollino, Alyssa Griffin, Ann Killeran, Ashleigh Cronin, Chloe Drinkwater, Giuliana Galiza, Haley Black, Kiara Woodbury, Laney King, Madison Gibbs, Sophia Clayton and Zaileyana Robbins.

Mark Haskell, associate sport director, contributed to this story.