Huskiettes young but experienced as they enter dance season

Sean C. Morgan

With a single returning senior, the Huskiettes dance team is young, but still experienced.

The girls have made some progress, placing third during a fall competition season in the “small pom” category.

Looking forward, the Oregon School Activities Association has combined the large and small divisions this year, said Coach Eohe Howerton. Her 12 girls will compete against teams ranging from six to 34 dancers in a division that spans 1A through 4A.

All of the teams, a total of 18, will perform on the first of a two-night state competition in March. Half will go on to the second day. Five of those will receive a trophy.

Last year, in the small division, the Huskiettes moved on to the second day, but they didn’t receive a trophy.

Mikaela Batchelor, a third-year dancer, is the only senior on the team, which also includes one exchange student, Coco Tairuku of Japan, who is also counted as a senior.

Joining them are third-year junior dancers Kailey Harrington and Dana Hiett. Junior Ilima Walker-Ka’auwai returns for her second season.

Sophomores dancing their second season include Tori Ingram, Marissa Green and Zoe Denbo.

Hayden Soland, a junior, joins the team for the first time this year.

She can jump, and she can pick up new things fast, Howerton said. She can do the difficult switch leap, and shown how to do something once, she picks it up.

Freshmen dancers are Erica McCoy, Desirae Kimble and Hazel Blank.

The younger dancers all have experience in the junior high program, said Howerton, who coached the junior high before taking over the high school program last year.

Captains include Batchelor, Harrington and Hiett. They’re helpful and provide good leadership to the younger girls, the coach said.

Making it past the first day is her goal again this year, Howerton said. Based on last year’s scores among their competitors, “we’re right at the cusp of that. This year, it’ll be a good learning experience.”

Then, looking forward to next year, she’ll graduate her single returning senior. The girls will be looking at what they need to do to move higher next year.

Facing the larger teams, which fill the floor and create stronger visuals, will be challenging, Howerton said. “I think it’ll probably fade out some of the smaller teams.”

The top teams have taken many years to reach where they are, Howerton said, but “it wouldn’t surprise me to make the second round.”

The performance theme this year is “Choices, Chances and Changes.”

“You must make the choice to take the chance if you want anything to change. In life, no matter what situation you’re in, you always have to make the choices to take the chances to see a different result.”

This goes to the team’s grades and their performance on the dance floor, Howerton said, adding that it’s a well-rounded theme they can carry.

“My girls are dedicated,” Howerton said. “I don’t have issues with them not showing up. They give me anything I ask. They do the best they can. It’s an honor to coach them.”

The team competes at Philomath on Jan. 30; Gresham on Feb. 7; South Albany on Feb. 13; Sheldon High School in Eugene on Feb. 20; Thurston High School in Springfield on March 5; and state on March 18 and March 19.

The team hosts its Kids Clinic on March 12 and a home exhibition on March 14.