Two Grandview Heights High School students took their curls and their smiling eyes to the East Coast to compete in the World Championship of Irish Dance.
Freshman Maria Murphy and sophomore Katie Flanagan competed as part of the choreography team from the Hilliard-based Regan-Rankin Academy of Irish Dance. The 16-member team finished in eighth place at the competition, held Easter weekend in Boston.
"It was an incredible experience to be part of such a big event with so many other people who all share the same interest and passion for Irish dancing," Flanagan said.
"That was what made it so great, to get to meet people from all over the world," Murphy said.
This year marked the first time the Regan-Rankin Academy earned a spot in the world championship, she said.
Murphy has been involved in Irish dancing since third grade.
"The Grandview library presented a performance with Irish dancers and I was immediately interested in it," she said. "It was different. It seemed more complicated than other kinds of dancing I'd seen -- plus I just loved the music."
For Flanagan, Irish dancing is a family tradition, but one she resisted for many years.
"My parents have been involved in it and they danced years ago with our dance teacher (at the academy)," she said. "In fact, I'm named for her: Katie Regan.
"I just wasn't interested in it for such a long time, until about three years ago," Flanagan said. "I don't think I was old enough before to really appreciate. Now I wish I had gotten started a lot sooner than I did."
It's hard to describe the feeling of accomplishment that comes with being part of a team dancing together with precision, Murphy said.
"I just love it all," she said. "You have to be very passionate and dedicated to Irish dancing. It's a lot of hard work, so it's something you really have to want to do."
In an average week, she attends three classes and a 21/2-hour session on Mondays, Murphy said.
"I love performing the best," Flanagan said. "No matter what you're doing, you're giving people so much joy. It's infectious. I like that feeling."