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Local Irish Dancers Claim Top Prizes Southern Regionals

A Boyds resident has taken the top prize at the Irish Dance Teachers Association of North America Southern Region Oireachtas while dancing with the McGrath Academy of Irish Dance which is based in the Washington, D.C. area.

Jessie Welgos, daughter of Dave and Jennifer Welgos of Boyds, fended off 113 competitors to reclaim her first-place title in the girls’ under-12 competition in the Oireachtas. And, Sophia Rankin, daughter of Chris Rankin and Jennifer Reed of Cabin John, out danced 146 dancers to claim her spot at the top of the podium in the girls’ under-15 competition.

The Oireachtas (pronounced Uh-ROCK-tus) is a regional championship where Irish dancers compete to qualify for national and world championships. The southern region, of which McGrath Academy of Irish Dance is a member, includes Alabama, Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Mexico. Oireachtas is the Gaelic word for legislature or meeting.

Nearly 2,000 dancers competed at the event, which was held in Houston on Dec. 7. Of the 40 McGrath solo dancers and seven traditional set dancers who competed, 31 solo dancers and four traditional set dancers placed in the top half of their competitions. Thirty-one dancers qualified to compete at the national level, and 12 qualified to compete at the world championships, which will be held in Greensboro, N.C. All four of McGrath’s eight-person ceili teams who competed in Houston will compete at worlds as well.

“That’s an 85 percent recall rate for solo dancers,” said Lauren McGrath Dutton, of the McGrath Academy of Irish Dance. “But what’s even more impressive is that our relatively small school brought home four first-place perpetual trophies.”

Among those qualifying for the national championship were Camryn and Morgan Flaherty, of Boyds. Camryn qualified to compete at nationals by placing in the girls under 12 solo championship, while Morgan qualified to compete at nationals by placing in the girls under 14 solo championship.

Catherine Wraback, of Germantown, qualified to compete at nationals by placing in the girls under 17 championship. Both Wraback and Jessie Welgos are also members of the drama and ceili teams.

“I am so proud of Jessie and Soph for winning their titles,” said Dutton. “They all worked exceptionally hard this year. Aisling is a lovely dancer, who has established herself as the top dancer in our region. Jessie defended the title she won last year and was a standout among her competitors. Soph set her sights on the top spot, then spent hours and hours each week working at the studio to make her dream a reality. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”