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Richland teen danced in the aisles. Now she dances on the Seahawks sideline

Hanford grad Dayla Hathaway on becoming a Sea Gal

Dayla Hathaway, a 2016 Hanford High School graduate, shares about her dance background and offers a pointer on becoming a Sea Gal dance team member. Editor's note: Hathaway danced for four years in high school, three with Hanford's dance team.
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Dayla Hathaway, a 2016 Hanford High School graduate, shares about her dance background and offers a pointer on becoming a Sea Gal dance team member. Editor's note: Hathaway danced for four years in high school, three with Hanford's dance team.

Dayla Hathaway is still a Tri-City gal.

She likes fewer people, the wide open sky, the small-town culture.

“I’m not a rain and trees fan,” the Richland native said.

But it hasn’t stopped her from achieving her dream of being on a professional dance squad. It was a long road to become “Sea Gal Dayla,” the newest and youngest member of the Seahawks dance team.

And despite time, odds and failure, the 19-year-old used her roots to get there.

Time: Growing up and getting ready

What it took to get to the Sea Gals started at age 8, when Hathaway started dancing. After graduating from Hanford High School, she’d practice at The Dance Class in Richland, participating in competitions while her mother, Maxine, supported her.

“I was always that kid in the grocery stores, dancing through the aisles,” Hathaway said.

She danced on Hanford High School’s dance team, coached by Rachael Morgan, which has won several state championships and awards in the past 12 years. Hathaway helped captain the team in 2016, when they picked up a couple first place honors.

At the end of her senior year, she went on a trip to try out for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

The Seahawks were a team her grandfather favored, and one she’d grown up watching along with the Cowboys.

In the Cowboys tryouts, however, she didn’t pass the first round. As a “studio” dancer, Hathaway wasn’t quite ready for the range and pressure of performing in an on-the-spot tryout.

It was a hard lesson, Hathaway said, but she said she was grateful — and not just for the experience.

It made me work harder. Twice as hard.

Dayla Hathaway

“It made me work harder,” she said. “Twice as hard.”

She went back to dance classes in Richland. She worked on her strength and her range of dances.

She had a new goal.

Odds: 1 in several hundred

Hathaway said she was a better dancer when Sea Gal auditions started April 22. It was a cattle call-style tryout at CenturyLink Field, where she said she had one minute to “show off your best moves” for dance director Sherri Thompson and choreographer Courtney Moore.

She was one of about several hundred auditioning. Twenty-eight were chosen.

“I think I know about 30 different dances,” Hathaway said, but “it was difficult because their dances styles are so different.”

The semifinals, held at the Seahawks’ Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, involved learning a dance in one day and performing it the next.

Hathaway passed both rounds, but even with her self-confidence, she wasn’t sure. She only knew when she got in when the Seahawks notified her she had an interview before the finals.

When you get such an adrenaline rush ... it all felt like it was a dream.

Dayla Hathaway

That’s when she realized she had no interview-worthy clothes.

“I spent on Macy’s that night” to get interview clothes, Hathaway said.

The finals came May 5, when Hathaway competed amid veterans, who also are required to try out. She learned the dance that day and practiced it the next and performed May 7 before a live-streamed audience.

Among the judges was Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett. Hathaway met him, though she doesn’t remember too much from that day — even when the judges called out her number .

“When you get such an adrenaline rush ... it all felt like it was a dream,” Hathaway said.

Failure: Learn from it and grow

The newly minted Sea Gal said she quickly jumped into the job with an athlete’s perspective and the backing of her family, especially her mother. She sometimes goes as late as 10:30 p.m. with practices. She works out twice a day. She meticulously watches her weight.

And she’s always learning.

Each dancer has to know several dances for a piece of music. Squads have signs and codes used to communicate over the roar of the 12th Man. There are occasionally commercials to shoot. Promotions to attend. She said it keeps her on her toes.

Every day you come to practice, you don’t know what’s going to come.

Dayla Hathaway

“Every day you come to practice, you don’t know what’s going to come,” she said.

But Hathaway enjoys the charity events, such as a recent Make-A-Wish Foundation request to play football and see players and dancers at CenturyLink Field.

“I can make a big change in someone’s life just by saying ‘Hi’ and asking how they’re doing,” she said. “It really means something to someone.”

Though she’s a rookie, Hathaway said she’s already thinking ahead. She wants to be a squad leader, but it takes a few years to reach that level.

Hathaway said she’s motivated to get there. Her teammates help, but she thinks of the home she misses in the Tri-Cities. She thinks about the memory of her grandfather.

She thinks about how she can keep improving.

“If you’re uncomfortable, you’re growing,” Hathaway said. “You’re just a number. You can always be replaced.”

Jake Dorsey: 509-582-1405

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