Local winners have been dancing since they were 4 .
YOUNGSTOWN -- Three students from Youngstown's Burke School of Irish Dance will show the world their fancy footwork at a world competition March 20-27 in Ennis, Ireland.
Lauren Kepley, 12, of Canfield, Caitlin Murphy, 16, of Warren, and Brendan Trewella, 18, of Boardman, earned spots in the international competition in Ireland after winning at the Midwest Regionals.
Lauren placed second among girls under 12, Caitlin placed first among girls under 16, and Brendan placed first among boys ages 17 to 18 at the regionals, which took place in Chicago in November.
Three top competitors
Still savoring the triumph of that competition, Lauren, Caitlin and Brendan are hoping the luck of the Irish will help them shine just as brightly when they compete overseas on the Emerald Isle.
"I still get really nervous right before I go onstage," said Caitlin, who has been dancing since age 4 and has competed in the world competition in Ireland seven previous times.
"Last year I placed 27th out of 180 kids at the world competition. This year I hope I have more of an edge to do even better," Caitlin added.
Both Lauren and Brendan have also been dancing since age 4 and have also traveled to Ireland previously for world competitions.
Lauren placed 43rd in the world at last year's international competition in Belfast.
"The best I've ever placed was fifth in the world," said Brendan, who has danced in world competition nine times. "Although I've done this many times before, every year is a new experience, and I still get just as nervous each time I compete."
Stealing the spotlight
World competitors are divided into groups according to age and sex, and medals are awarded to top winners in each group. About 150 dancers comprise each group.
Although the hundreds of kids who compete in the international competition hail from all over the globe, the top titles usually go to Irish dancers.
"It's tough for the Americans to compete against the Irish kids because this type of dance is so ingrained in the everyday lives of kids in Ireland. It's part of their gym class every day," said Lauren's mother, Maureen Kepley.
Still, once in a while, an American steps in and steals the spotlight.
"Last year an American boy named Garrett Coleman of Pittsburgh's Burke School of Irish Dance did win the world title among boys 18 and under," said Caitlin's mother, Karen Murphy.
Irish, all three
But even if they don't snag a medal and top honors at the world competition, Lauren, Caitlin and Brendan say a trip to Ireland is a thrill in itself.
"Ireland is a truly magnificent country. The people are great, and there's a real sense of mystery about the place. It's so rich in history. I feel privileged to visit there," Brendan said.
All three feel a special connection to the Emerald Isle because of their lineage.
Caitlin is 100 percent Irish American, and Lauren and Brendan have a part-Irish heritage.
Lauren and Caitlin are uncertain whether they will focus on dancing professionally after they graduate from high school, but Brendan said he is considering making it his career.
"It's really become a part of my life and a part of who I am, and it's something I can always rely on for enjoyment," he said. "In the future, I might want to dance professionally."