Kati Solin took over as coach of the North Central dance team five years ago. Well, what there was of it, anyway.
At that time, the program had four participants, had never competed and was, in her words, “a bit of a mess.”
“The first year I started coaching, I got a whopping 11 dancers to dedicate their year to dance team,” Solin said.
From those humble beginnings things slowly started to take shape. Every year since, the program has grown a bit bigger – and better. This year, more than 60 students tried out.
Solin’s team has been recognized for its volunteer efforts, has performed at Spokane Empire games and placed platinum in the Lilac Parade. This year it received a first-place trophy in competition for the first time.
Solin could not have built the program and the skill level of the dancers without dedication from the athletes.
“Having returners who can build off their skill level from the prior year and help new, incoming dancers has been my saving grace,” she said.
There were two four-year returners on the team this year: Alyssa Toney served as team captain and Gloria Miller was the CSO – Chief Social Officer.
“I have been beyond lucky to coach these two ladies for the past four years,” Solin said.
“When I first tried out, I didn’t know what to expect,” Miller said. “I kind of thought it was just going to be like every other sport.
“But it hasn’t been that way for me. It’s like I have a family there.”
Even though she had danced her whole life, dance team helped bring Toney out of her shell.
“When I first started out on dance team I was very, very shy,” she said. “I feel like I’ve grown so much, just in confidence and performance ability from this.
“And I met Gloria from this and she’s my best friend.”
Dance team is a yearlong sport, so that means the two have been involved in a varsity sport every season since they hit the halls at North Central.
“They have been by my side learning, growing and improving, as I did as a new coach,” Solin said. “We grew together and built a beautiful program that puts love first and dance second.”
With the pandemic robbing seniors across the country, Solin wishes things could have been different for her girls.
“It breaks my heart to end their year, end their dance team career, end their dedication and support with such a bleak and uneventful finish,” she said.
Toney and Miller were to perform and dance in the school play, lead the dance team in the Lilac Parade and choreograph the final performance of the year as their senior dance project.
“I was really sad,” Miller said. “That tradition is something I looked forward to my whole high school career.”
“Gloria and I had already finished mostly with choreography. We decided on music and everything,” Toney said. “Not getting to do that was really hard.”
Toney, a 4.0 student who will study biochemistry at the University of Washington, hasn’t missed a dance practice in more than two years.
“Her dedication to her schooling, her sport, her friends and her community amazes me every day,” Solin said.
As CSO, Miller – an honor roll student – was in charge of team bonding activities and all hair and makeup for the team.
Miller sings, plays cello, acts, creates visual art and is a creative writer.
“Her creativity is astounding,” Solin said. “Calling her a ‘triple threat’ wouldn’t do her justice.”
Miller plans to attend Eastern Washington to pursue a degree in music education, and hopes to help coach at NC in her spare time.
“My dance story is definitely not over,” she said, “but I’m definitely going to miss my teammates.”
Miller and Toney are also involved in the NC community by donating to clothing and food drives, helping leadership with school spirit, and being part of “Link Crew,” helping incoming students feel welcomed.
“Their hearts are pure and their intentions are genuine,” Solin said. “They make me want to be a better person myself.”
Diversity thrives: NC had seven seniors on the girls tennis team from a variety of experience levels.
Kailey Crockett and Elaina Nixon were four-year participants in the program.
“(Kailey) is one of the seniors that inspired the coaches to rebuild the program,” Indians coach Riley Moore said. “Taking her lead, we at NC will hold our heads up and stay positive.
“If perseverance were a sport, she’d be an Olympian.”
Nixon and her family often helped with team fundraisers.
“Lainey has always been willing to put the team first, playing anywhere when needed,” Moore noted.
Moore lauded the rest of his squad.
Estabraq Al Muhammed climbed her way through the ranks of the program and is a strong presence at practice.
“If you’re not doing it right, Estabraq will let you know,” Moore said. “That includes the coaches.”
He called Maly Morales a “workhorse.” She was new to tennis and was looking forward to a new adventure.
“Don’t let her quiet nature fool you,” Moore said.
Ellaha Mohmand “brings a spark and energy to practice that is all her own,” he added. Another newcomer, Zyaira Webb, claimed a varsity position by the end of last season.
“Zyaira is a leader at practice, school and in the community,” Moore said.
Moore called Teann Manser a “straight-up boss.”
“A player like Teann makes a team thrive, and she’s been leading since her sophomore year,” he said.
North Central senior roll call
Baseball: Luther Allen, Logan Cramer, Ben Gillespie, Miles Iseminger, Alex Mahn, David Mayfield, Xavier Nila, Gummer Sebright, Kyle Seedall, Gunnar VanRiper, Isias Rosado Velazquez. Softball: Lexi Atchley, Alex Green, Gabby Mason, Chloe Palmer. Boys soccer: Marcus Abdel-Malek, Abbas Al Mohammed, Huseni Bembe, John Byembabazi, Cooper Luce, Prince Nizeyimana. Boys tennis: Jacob Thompson. Girls tennis: Estabraq Al Muhammed, Kailey Crockett, Teann Manser, Maly Morales, Ellaha Mohmand, Elaina Nixon, Zyaira Webb. Boys golf: Blake Scoble. Girls golf: None. Boys track: Evan Bertholf-Linn, Micah Brauhn, Ian Cady, Chuck Carr, Nathan Carter, Garrett Chavez, Kian Dolan, Dalton Feist, Kade Garvey, Rocky Garza, Ian Hicks, Caleb Jensen, Kyle Leaming, Qwyn McCollom, Isaac Morris, Juanjose Ruiz. Girls track: Precious Aho, Charlotte Falstad, Kate Hilderman, Mia Hill, Erinn Hill, Kiara Kytka, Sophia Lakiouser, Amaya Martin, Kristen Murphy, Emilee Orvik, Alesis Pyne, Amelu Ruff, Edwige Rusimuka, Tia Stangel, Marie Taylor, Sanda Thanh, Julian Vaughn.