Some area students showed off their South Side Irish heritage in Scotland recently as their Irish dance team took first place at a world championship competition in Glasgow.

“We work really hard,” said 15-year-old Molly Ross, of Palos Heights.

Molly, a sophomore at Marist High School in Chicago, began practicing Irish dance at age 5, as did her older sister and teammate, Kiley Ross, who is a senior at Marist. This is the second year Kiley was part of a team that earned First Place at the Irish Dancing Commission World Championship.

Kiley said she and her sister weren’t alone in their efforts, which included practicing for hours four times a week. The Ross sisters are part of two 8-person teams that competed over eight days at the end of March at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, where they had success on stage and off.

“It’s the connection that is really cool,” said Kiley, 17. “I have an instant connection with Irish dancers, whether here or abroad. And that is just energizing”

Another component of what it takes to earn First Place at a world competition is putting in the time and the miles between home and the dance studio.

The teams are associated with the Lavin Cassidy School of Irish Dance in Worth, and getting to and from practices by carpooling with other dance families has been part of the winning game plan. It also led to some lasting friendships.

Tara Ross, Kiley and Molly’s mother, said th family lived in Naperville when the girls started Irish dancing.

“The Naperville commute was much longer, but we had several families we carpooled with,” she recalled. “It was hectic, but it was fun. The girls developed such strong relationships with their dance friends.”

In addition to Marist, the dancers who made up the Under 16 Girls Ceili Team and the Under 19 Girls Ceili Team that traveled to Glasgow represented Carl Sandburg High School, LIncoln-Way Central High School, Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School, Nazareth Academy, and Oak Lawn Community High School and Glenbard West High School.

“These dancers are together in classes, and they all know each other no matter what age,” said Tara Ross. “The older dancers help the younger from the beginning. As a result, the families all know each other.”

Larry Tucker, principal of Marist High School, was impressed by the dancers achievements.

“The entire Marist community is proud of these dancers and all that their success represents — hard work, teamwork, and dedication,” he said.

Ann Lavin Cassidy is longtime owner and instructor at the dance school, acknowledged the commitment of the dancers.

“It takes an incredible amount of work leading up to competitions from the dancers and the teachers,” she said.

That hard work has paid off, not just with trophies, but with experiences the dancers will remember for a lifetime.

Molly Ross said she is most appreciative of the opportunities she has had to “travel across the world.”

Both teams from Lavin Cassidy School of Dance have gone right back to work as they prepare for the North American Dance competition in Orlando over the July 4 holiday.

“The lessons my girls have learned about time management, hard work, good sportsmanship whether you win or lose, and confidence will take them far and I am forever grateful,” Tara Ross said.

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