By Dan Guttenplan
---- — BYFIELD — The Triton cheer team wasted no time getting back to work in November after relinquishing the Cape Ann League title for the first time in seven seasons.
Even though the season ended three weeks earlier than normal since Triton did not advance to the North Regionals, the team kept practicing through November in preparation for the winter season. That hard work came to fruition Sunday when Triton reclaimed the CAL title — its sixth in the last seven cheer seasons — by posting the highest score in the league championship competition at Triton Regional High.
“We kind of used that anger and disappointment that we felt during the football season,” Triton coach Erin Dempsey said. “The kids really used it as motivation to pick up harder skills and work through the offseason. Even though they were done in the first week of November after the league competition, they kept working straight through and turned a negative to a positive.”
The league title is Triton’s third in a row during the winter season. The Vikings also had a streak of three consecutive CAL titles during the fall season before falling short last fall. Dempsey said the cause of that disappointment last fall was due, in part, to an injury to one of Triton’s top athletes the day before the league competition.
“One of our best contributors, who was an integral part of our routine, hurt her knee, and we did everything we could to get through the (CAL competition),” Dempsey said. “At that point, we needed to switch some roles around rather than get ready for the regional competition.”
Triton will return to North Regionals March 3 in Lowell. Dempsey credits captains Jessica Kelley, Catie Clark and Heather McDonald for leading the team back to the top of the league.
“We picked up a couple of freshmen in the fall who were strong additions,” Dempsey said. “But the leadership of my three captains definitely played a role in keeping everyone encouraged. We typically go August through March with the same core kids. They’ve become a lot closer because of it, and it made a difference.”
Freshman Mackenzie Colbert has also been a key contributor to this year’s team. She came to the team with a tumbling background, which has become the norm for younger athletes in the sport of cheer. Dempsey brings in a tumbling coach/consultant to her Triton practices once a week to help her squad increase the difficulty of its routine.
“Tumbling has become such a big part of the sport,” Dempsey said. “When I first started coaching, tumbling was something we struggled with. The girls integrated themselves during the offseasons, taking tumbling classes. It fell into place as far as increasing the difficulty.”
Dempsey has been the coach of Triton for six winter seasons and five fall seasons. She also recently opened an all-star cheer gym in Groveland.