By Mac Cerullo
---- — BYFIELD – The Triton varsity cheerleading team soared to its first state title this past Sunday, besting nine other schools to claim the 2014 Division III State Championship.
The Vikings took first place with 159 points, edging out Wilmington High School (158 points) and Tri-County Regional Technical Vocational High School in Franklin (156 points) for the top spot in Division III.
“It’s an all day competition,” head coach Erin Dempsey said. “It’s very nerve wracking, and the one positive is my team has competed at that level before, which I think mentally helped them.”
Based on its performance at recent tournaments, Triton went into this weekend’s tournament at Tantasqua Regional High School in Fiskdale as the No. 1 team in Division III. Despite being one of the tournament’s favorites, Dempsey said nobody really knew how it would turn out until the announcement was made.
“Because we were in the warmup area, we didn’t get to see the first five teams in our division,” Dempsey said. “I knew we’d done well, but usually the girls kind of look to me for a sense of whether it’s going to happen or not, and I didn’t even know the answer.”
Needless to say, it was a pleasant surprise when the results were read over the PA system and the team realized they had just become state champions.
“I didn’t believe it until it actually came out of the DJs mouth,” Dempsey said. “That’s when we knew it was real.”
The championship is the first in the Triton cheerleading program’s history. Previously, the best finish by a Triton cheerleading squad at states was last year’s third place finish. Overall, the team has been on an upward trajectory since Dempsey took over in 2008, and prior to winning States, the team also captured its second straight Division III North Regional title.
One of the key reasons for the improvement has been the team’s emphasis on stunts and tumbling, which are two criteria by which teams are judged when completing routines, along with dance, motion, showmanship, voice, creativity, pyramids and formation.
“Our routine is probably the most difficult one we’ve ever had,” Dempsey said. “One thing I’ve really worked on is their stunts ability, so I think that was definitely one of the reasons we were more successful this season. And tumbling is kind of something we’ve become known for, so I think those two aspects really set us apart.”
Triton will have the opportunity to add to its trophy case later this month when the team heads to New Englands in Lawrence on March 22. The team has also qualified for Nationals, and may have a chance to travel to Disney World to compete against some of the best teams in the country.