Lobster Bowl: Cheerleaders ready to get routines down for Saturday's marquee event

·4 min read

Jul. 13—AUBURN — After suiting up for the Poland football team last fall, Izabella Martin was surprised to get an invite to this year's Lobster Bowl.

However, the recent Poland Regional High School graduate won't be strapping on the pads, but instead will be wearing one of the new West squad cheerleading outfits.

Martin is one of 37 cheerleaders who will be on the Don Roux Field sidelines in Lewiston for the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic on Saturday. The recent graduates are in the middle of training camp this week at Central Maine Community College, and Wednesday was a chance for the cheerleaders to tell their stories at media day.

Martin was surprised to find out the game also involved cheerleaders. She was a member of the Poland football team as an offensive guard and linebacker on defense but was on Poland's competitive cheerleading squad in the winter.

"It was something I didn't realize it was cheering too," Martin said. "It was something I was well aware of for football, because I knew who was nominated (for Poland). Then realizing I had that opportunity for cheering, too, is pretty cool."

Martin is unsure if this will be the final time she will be on a football sideline. She will be heading to Liberty University, a Division I school in Lynchburg, Virginia, and wants to either get involved as a cheerleader or be a part of the football program.

Fellow West squad member Kenedi Arsenault of Mountain Valley is ready to put on a show one more time.

Both the cheerleaders and the gridiron stars raise money for Shriners Hospitals for Children as part of their participation in the Lobster Bowl.

"It's probably going to be the last time cheering, so it's going to be pretty cool for a good cause," Arsenault said.

Arsenault already has joined the workforce as a CNA.

One of the East team's coaches, Dawna LaBonte, knows what the cheerleaders are going through this week: she was in their shoes in 2011, representing Edward Little.

"It's definitely a lot different; you kind of be out there with them because you know it's their last time — for most of them — for cheering," said LaBonte, who now coaches Edward Little. "I remember how I felt and it's pretty exciting getting a group of all-stars, basically, and cheer."

While the football players are sequestering at Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft for training camp, the cheerleaders are preparing at CMCC this week.

Arsenault had a general idea of what to expect during the training camp.

"My sister (Mackenzie Arseneault) came the last (full Lobster Bowl) we had (in 2019)," Arsenault said. "She was like, 'It was fun, it was cool, you will do fine.' She gave me the inside knowledge on what it would be (like)."

Building a halftime routine and a few sideline routines in one week involves getting the cheerleaders on the same page in a short time frame.

"We just started (training camp Monday) and we kicked the day off with team-building, getting to know each other, because we are all from different places," Martin said. "We are trying to work as a team so everything works properly."

LaBonte said the coaches had a plan on what they wanted to do before the girls arrived at CMCC.

"(Monday) was definitely interesting meeting everybody for the first time, but luckily (coaches Annie Dubois and Samantha Lang-Rodean) put together a good routine," LaBonte said. "They already had the music picked, and basically we saw what the girls could do. Luckily, we have enough experience to figure it out on how to make it work best with the talent we have."

The cheerleaders who do competition cheering during the winter understand the short turnaround in getting routines ready.

"In competition season, it's definitely a time crunch between competitions," Mountain Valley graduate Abigail LeBlanc said. "But I would say this is more of a time crunch just because we only have a few days."

While the cheerleaders aren't getting scored, like in winter competitions, they want to put on the best show possible.

LaBonte said both the coaches and the athletes have different stresses throughout the week.

"Physically, it's more difficult on the cheerleaders, but mentally, it's definitely a lot harder on the (coaches)," LaBonte said. "We are more thinking about the game day and what could go wrong. We are trying to be positive with the girls about what could go right. Physically, it's a lot more strenuous on them, but emotionally and mentally, we are struggling all night thinking about it."

LeBlanc likes the fast-paced environment she and her fellow cheerleaders are in this week. She will be heading to the University of Maine in Orono and is still up in the air if she will pursue cheering in college.

"It's really fun meeting new people and getting to work with them," LeBlanc said. "It's a really fast-paced kind of practice that's going on because we are on a time crunch. I think once Saturday comes, we will be ready."