The phrase can often be heard echoing off the walls in the Whitman-Hanson Regional High gymnasium as the cheerleaders break their huddle. It said before every practice, after every routine and every competition.
The two words have served as a way to draw the Panthers, who lost their coach of five-plus years after a trip in late January to Dallas for nationals, amid tough times.
“We came out about seven weeks to coach and we were looking to kind of find a way to really come together and one of the biggest thing this season was teamwork,” said Alyssa Hayes, who now coaches the team alongside Keryn Cordo and Melissa Scungio. “So, one of the things that we had talked to the girls a lot about was if they believed in themselves and they believed in each other and their team that they could do anything.”
On Sunday, on its home mat, the cheerleading team had every reason to believe. The Panthers boasted a 200.1 score to secure their 13th MSAA Division 2 state title.
“They came together, they worked hard from the second they arrived on Sunday to the second they left,” Hayes said. “I could see it in their face. I could tell that this is what they worked for and they weren’t going to let anything stop them.”
The victory also marked the program’s fifth straight winter crown.
“I think that this season the girls were so resilient and they really rose above and worked together, so I think after a [second-place finish] at regionals and after being at home, at least, they really wanted this title,” Hayes said. “This was definitely one of the sweetest ones of all.”
Milford, which finished second with a score of 196.2, edged the Panthers, 195.40-194.70, the week before in the South regional competition.
“We had been hitting prior,” Hayes said. “We had been hitting the routine and I think some days it’s just not there, so we used that as motivation during states week to work even harder to really ask them: how bad do you want this. This is your home and this is your mat. How bad do you want it?”
The Panthers also lost one of their flyers this winter, thrusting a base into action to learn new techniques on the fly.
“We had alternates step up to compete, learning the routine in less than 48 hours,” Hayes said. “I truly believe it was a season of teamwork and I’m really proud of that. The girls worked at 1,000 percent to make sure their dynasty lived on.”
The cheerleaders will not be attending the New England regional competition due to a scheduling conflict, but they’re perfectly content with the way things ended.
“They qualified, but they’re ending as state champions and they’re definitely pleased,” Hayes said.
The cheerleading team was captained by junior Anna Franklin and consisted of senior Nicole Masone, juniors Madelyn Anderson, Ashley Davis and Shelby Newcomb, sophomores Kaylee Diehl, Rachel Hunter and Ryley Hurley and freshmen Melanie Hulbert, Olivia McCarthy and Savannah Poirier.