Highland Dancers heading to national competition in Las Vegas

Submitted photo From left, Savanna Brown, Gabriele Pealer, Julia Biola, Mollie Lemasters, Evelyn Bennett, Rachel Himes and their Highland dance instructor Katy Dillon at the regional competition venue in Savannah, Georgia.

ELKINS — Four local dancers will be competing in Las Vegas at a national Highland Dancing championship in July.

On May 4, six West Virginia Highland Dancers competed in their regional competition in Savannah, Georgia.

After preparing intensively year-round for this event, the girls attempted to earn a spot at the national competition. Once on stage, they remembered all of the challenges and weaknesses they overcame in the past year, and with that in mind, they began to dance each movement to the best of their abilities.

With pride, the girls represented their home state of West Virginia in front of their families and friends, and now they share their great success with the community.

In the 10 and under 12 category, Julia Biola was announced as the champion and Rachel Himes was announced the second runner up.

“I feel amazing that I get to go to USIR (US Inter-Regional Championship). It’s an honor to be there with the top dancers, and it’s going to be really fun! I was very excited and I couldn’t stop smiling when I found out my placing. I was also really proud of the other girls from our group who competed at regionals,” said Biola.

Himes also shared her excitement about the results.

“I can’t wait to dance at USIR. It is the most exciting thing ever! I get nervous about competing, but know that I do my best even if I don’t place,” Himes said. “When I realized that I made it in the top three at Savannah, I knew my hard work had paid off. I spent so much time in the studio beforehand, and I couldn’t believe that I qualified because it was my first time competing at regionals.

“We will be practicing much more than usual to prepare for USIR. I think it will be so exciting to make new dance friends at the competition and of course to be dancing! I’m so glad we have four representatives and one alternate for this year’s USIR,” she said. “A huge thanks to my dance teacher Katy (Dillon). She has helped us so much and I couldn’t have done it without her. Katy is like my second mom and I love her.”

In the 12 and under 14 category, Mollie Lemasters earned the title of first runner up and Savanna Brown earned fourth runner up.

In the 16 and under 18 category, Evelyn Bennett defended her title of champion for the third year in a row, and Gabriele Pealer earned third runner up.

Four of the dancers will be representing the Southeast region at USIR Championship competition in Las Vegas on July 20.

This year set a record for the most highland dancers from West Virginia to have ever qualified for the USIR.

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