Molahiettes bring home state championship

Mar. 30—MOSES LAKE — Being a member of the Molahiettes brings with it a set of expectations.

The Moses Lake High School drill team successfully defended its title in the military category at the WIAA Drill/Dance State Championships on March 23. By the nature of competition, few teams win a state title, but for the Molahiettes it's kind of — expected. It's what the Molahiettes do. It's tradition.

Co-captain Ashlynn Tate said coping with the pressure is a tradition too.

"A mix of emotions, nerves, excitement, but it's a lot of pressure because we do have such high standards for our team," Tate said. "But especially with this year, I feel like no matter what the results were, we were very proud of how we pulled through the year."

Coach Jaylynn Hernandez and her assistant coach are cousins, and their grandmother passed away during the season. That was followed less than a week later by the death of Hernandez's mother. In addition, Hernandez gave birth in January.

Those were big challenges for the coaches, but co-captain Addy Carlile said it didn't stop the coaches from doing the job.

"It was truly inspiring, to watch how they were always there for us, and showed dedication to the team," Carlile said. "And I think being able to see that made going to state just that much more exciting."

Hernandez said she was back at morning practices about 10 days after giving birth — but that the commitment required for drill team applies to the coaches as well as the dancers.

"These are the commitments we made to each other as a team, and we want to be there for each other," she said.

The drill team also competed in a national tournament in late February, with their military routine earning them third place in their category. They finished fourth in pom. A routine that wins state titles and high national placings has to be challenging, Hernandez said. Carlile said it also requires a lot of practice.

"Dance as a sport is very — how do I say it?" Carlile said.

"Subjective," Hernandez said.

"Very subjective," Carlile said. "So not only do our coaches have to create these routines that are going to appeal to what the judges are looking for, it's also very big in execution. So we are training, probably the most out of any other team I know of."

Hernandez estimated some of the Molahiettes put in 20-22 hours per week on the dance floor, between practices and private lessons. The drill team often practices twice per day. Carlile said it's a lot of work, but it's important to her.

"I do it because I love my team. I do it because I want to make Jay proud," Carlile said. "And I also do it for myself. Because there's nothing better than to know that I contributed to something that is basically a legacy. And that is what the Molahiettes are, they are a legacy. And keeping that going — that's pretty great."

The work that goes into the Molahiettes builds a bond between its members, Tate said.

"I do feel like we see each other as family. We're all sisters. Like (Carlile) said, there's no greater feeling and sense of accomplishment than being able to be part of such a legacy," Tate said. "Walking off the state floor (after competing) — just that feeling, it's truly surreal. You can't describe it; it feels amazing. And so being able to be a part of that is what brings us back every day."

The state competition schedule can be brutal — Moses Lake was the first team to compete and fourth from last. A replacement team member was added a few days before the state competition. Allison Ruffin knew the routines, but she had not performed with the team very much during the season.

"She did such a great job, jumping in a spot that she literally had to learn within four days," Hernandez said. "We're so thankful."

The reputation the team has built extends beyond state and national competition, and that, Hernandez said, in her opinion, is really what makes the team successful. Dancers throughout the state, and even from other states are impressed when they learn she is part of the Molahiettes, and that's true for other alumni too.

She talked to the team about that before they took the floor at state, she said.

"I (reminded) the team, trophies are great, but we have a million trophies. Trophies aren't everything," Hernandez said. "When I think of success, it's how a million coaches ask me and a million dancers ask me, 'How do you do it? How does your team do it?' That to me is success. Everywhere I go, somebody is (asking). 'Moses Lake dance team. That's that team?' Yes. It is that team."

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at