A local teen has been praised for her ‘hard work and commitment’ after clinching the top spot in an Irish dancing competition.
Rachel Morrow, a lower sixth pupil at Ulidia Integrated College in Carrickfergus, won first place at the Cumann Rince dea Mheasa (CRDM) World Irish Dancing Championships in Kilkenny last week.
Rachel, from Craigyhill in Larne, has been dancing for 13 years and is a pupil of the Carrick-based Royal Tara Dance Academy.
The dancing trophy is the latest in a string of awards for the 17-year-old, according to mum Gillian. “Rachel’s older sister Jade was a dancer with the Royal Tara school and I’m a dancer myself so it’s something that’s always been in our family,” she said.
“Rachel won her first championship at the age of six at a local competition in Larne and since then she’s been Ulster Champion and British Champion. She also won second in Europe in 2010.”
Last week’s win will be the first World Championship accolade for the talented teen, who also celebrated success in the Dublin Championships last month.
“After the win in Kilkenny, Rachel was very calm at first but as soon as it had sunk in and the dance teachers came over to hug her, the tears started,” added Gillian.
“She put an awful lot of work into it so we were just delighted.
“She has a few more competitions coming up at the end of the month including the Ulsters and the All-Ireland, so she’ll be kept busy getting ready for those.”
Royal Tara’s Ruth Long, whose dance school has been honing talent for 46 years, paid tribute to Rachel’s achievements. She told The Times: “Rachel has been with the school since she was very young and the younger dancers do look up to her; we’re really pleased for her.
“In total we had 14 or 15 girls competing and several secured places. We had been preparing for this competition all year.
“The girls practised every night in classes lasting from two to three hours.”
As well as facing tough competition from local participants, Ruth revealed that the high-profile CRDM championships attract dancers from around the world.
Fellow East Antrim winners from the Royal Tara school included Larne girl Christy McRandle, who won the age 16 group, while Carnlough dancer Holly Jamison scooped first place in the age 10 group.
Rachel’s success came as no shock to her classmates at Ulidia Integrated College, where she was recently appointed deputy head prefect .
Ulidia principal Eugene Martin said: “Rachel has also been known to display her talents in Ulidia College to a packed hall for school events, much to their delight and entertainment,” he said.
“She is a fantastic role model to all the pupils of Ulidia, showing that commitment, hard work and determination really do pay off.”