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'She always fell forward' — Former North Star student, Hastings College coach Molifua dies at 24
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'She always fell forward' — Former North Star student, Hastings College coach Molifua dies at 24

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Mikaelah Molifua was an incredible warrior, those who knew her said.

As an athlete at North Star High School and Hastings College, the former Lincoln resident excelled in cheerleading and softball, becoming head coach of the cheer and dance team at Hastings College until she stepped down in January.

She left a lasting impact everywhere she went, friends and family said.

Molifua created the tradition of the “roller-coaster cheer” at North Star games that has continued, said Christina Nevitt, an English teacher at the high school who is a family friend of the Molifuas and was her cheer coach.

“I haven’t had a bond with a student like that really until I met her, and I don’t know if I ever will again,” Nevitt said.

Last week, the 24-year-old died after battling stage 4 cancer for the second time in seven years.

According to those who knew Molifua, she never let her illness diminish her sense of optimism, which could be seen in her consistent compassion, dedication and strength.

"She had a spirit that I've never seen before," said Ruth Nwaturuacha, her best friend. "She had gone through so much in life, but no matter what happened she always fell forward."

Seven years ago on Sunday, Molifua retired from the Nebraska Blue Diamonds softball team because she did not have the strength to continue playing. She continued to attend every game.

As the Nebraska Blue Diamond’s season progressed, the team dwindled to eight players as other members faced illness or injury. They needed a ninth player to complete the season, and Molifua stepped out of retirement so the team could continue to play.

“I’ve got to play, mom,” her mother, Dani Molifua, recalled Mikaelah saying to her. “My team needs me.”

According to Dani Molifua, her daughter was a friend and family-oriented person who was heavily invested in her relationships with others.

One example: Mikaelah was opinionated about who her brothers and friends would date because she did not want anyone she cared about to settle for any less than they deserved.

“To the very end she was my baby girl,” said Dani Molifua. “I guess God and her father needed her more than I did, and she’s finally healthy once again.”

Molifua is survived by her mother, Dani, her three brothers, Teo, Casey and Ethan, and her fiancee, Tayday Knight. 

A small ceremony will be held on July 11, because COVID-19 has restricted the number of attendees. 

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7241 or ssaric@journalstar.com.

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News intern

Summer news intern Sofia Saric is a Los Angeles native studying journalism at Boston University and has previously written stories for the Boston Globe, the Brookline TAB, the Daily Free Press and Spindle.

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