Erin Gargan and others Qualifiers in Irish Dance Contest

When Erin Gargan was 8 years old, her parents took her to an annual Irish music festival in Baltimore, and ever since, she's been dancing her way to Ireland.

The Millersville 15-year-old placed among the top qualifiers last month in a national Irish dance contest in Atlanta, winning a chance to compete in the spring in the world championships in Ennis, Ireland.

The Atlanta contest, sponsored by the New York-based Irish Dance Teachers Association of North America, attracted hundreds of competitors. Winners in various age categories advanced to the World Irish Dancing Championships, held annually in Ireland by the Irish Dancing Commission.

The Washington/Baltimore area produced a number of contestants for the world contest, many of whom are students, like Erin, of the Kevin Broesler School of Irish Dance, which has classes in Baltimore. Other winners from the Broesler school are: Deirdre Byrne, 15, and Lise Byrne, 18, of Ellicott City; Sean Conner, 15, of Baltimore; Erin Dubina, 13, and Meghan Dubina, 16, of Severna Park; Rebecca Egan, 26, and Katie Fox, 14, of Baltimore; Catherine Hodgetts, 17, and Maura Hodgetts, 10, of Baltimore; Maura Ireland, 12, of Easton; Aidan Jones, 10, and Patrick Muth, 16, of Baltimore; and Maureen Smith, 18, and Richard Smith, 16, of Riverdale.

Two students of the Prendergast School of Irish Dancing in Gaithersburg also qualified for the finals: Sarah Gibney, 12, of Gaithersburg; and Annie Hurley, 13, of Rockville. One student from the Maple School of Irish Dancing in McLean, Kaitlin McTighe, 11, of Germantown, will also go to the finals.

Interest in Irish dancing has been accelerated by the popular touring productions "Riverdance" and "Lord of the Dance," but Erin's passion for the slip jig, the horn pipe and other step dances goes way back to the Emerald Isle.

"I'm really Irish," she said, although she was born in the United States and has never been to Ireland. "I'm 100 percent," she said, explaining that her grandparents on both parents' sides were from Ireland. Her mother, Helen, used to perform Irish dances when she was a girl, a practice handed down by her own mother.

Erin practices every day, between playing on the lacrosse team at Mount de Sales Academy in Catonsville, where she is a sophomore, and writing on the school newspaper. And she competes once or twice a month in local dance contests.

"Most of the dancers start at a young age -- 5, 8 or 9 -- it takes a long time to learn," she said. "You've got to get the basics down. You have to practice every day. It's tricky to pick up."

"It's hard. It's a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun as well," she said.

Erin's family will get a chance to see relatives when they go to Ireland, and Erin will see her adopted homeland for the first time.

"I've wanted to go there my whole life, and I'm finally going," she said. Cheryl Lynn Hepfer Named top fellow of matrimonial lawyer group

Cheryl Lynn Hepfer, of Upper Marlboro, was named Fellow of the Year at the 35th annual meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Hepfer, who has offices in Rockville and Upper Marlboro, was cited for her service to the academy, a national association of 1,500 lawyers who specialize in matrimonial law. Frederick and Marilyn Corder Honored for career achievements

Frederick and Marilyn Corder, of Marlow Heights, a husband-and-wife pediatric team, have received the Black Women's Health Council's Crystal Life Achievement Award. The Corders are the medical directors of the Children's Medical Care Centers in Bowie, Landover, Temple Hills and the District.

The council is a nonprofit organization based in Prince George's County that provides medical and social services to less-affluent residents. It cited the couple for their "philosophy of providing comprehensive health care for all children without regard to their economic situation." Melody Lawrence Wins teaching scholarship

Melody Lawrence, of University Park, a teacher at Drew Freeman Middle School, was awarded a scholarship to attend a technology training seminar by Jones Communications, the cable television company that sponsored the scholarship. Teachers are chosen on the basis of nominations from their students, who explain how the teachers use technology in the classroom. Four Prince George's students Named best engineers' in contest

Four Prince George's County students were named "best engineers" in a countywide competition sponsored by the Maryland Space Business Roundtable, a nonprofit organization that represents about 70 space-related businesses in the state.

The winners were: Emerson Smith, a sixth-grader at Kenilworth Elementary School; Lionel Hernandez, an eighth-grader at Thurgood Marshall Middle School; Wendy Hess, a senior at Oxon Hill High School; and Aimee Figer, a junior at Oxon Hill.

Students were judged on their ability to construct devices out of simple materials to meet specific engineering requirements. Emily Borrell and Robert Carroll Named athletes of the year

The Special Olympics Maryland of Charles County has named its athletes and volunteer of the year.

Emily Borrell, 20, of Ripley, was named Female Athlete of the Year, and Robert "Bobby" Carroll, of Waldorf, was named Male Athlete of the Year.

The organization also named Don Swaniger, of Waldorf, as its Volunteer of the Year. Bill Clark and John Schmidt Honored by community group

Bill Clark, of Columbia, has been named Good Neighbor of 1997 by the Town Center Community Association for helping his neighbors, particularly with landscaping problems. John Schmidt, of Columbia, was named a Good Samaritan for helping a victim of a car accident. Cindy Rinaldi and others Winners of Montgomery cable awards

Cindy Rinaldi, of Gaithersburg, led the ranks of volunteer television producers and technicians honored at the 12th annual Volunteer Awards Ceremony of Montgomery Community Television Inc.

The awards, nicknamed "The Monties," acknowledged more than 60 cable television volunteers in 14 production, technical and special recognition categories.

Rinaldi produces "Urban Wildlife," a comedy program that won Best in Festival for its overall high quality. Judges praised the show for its "original concept, excellent cast and dialogue, and technical creativity," according to cable company officials.

The program also took top prizes in the studio arts and entertainment category and the studio lighting and set design category.

Michael Kengla, of Derwood, won the Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award for his contributions as a public-access technician and producer. Steve Musselman Named coach of the year

The Maryland Junior College Association recently named Steve Musselman the 1997 Cross Country Coach of the Year for the region of Maryland and southern Pennsylvania. Musselman, of Frederick, is a track and cross-country coach for Howard Community College. He has coached several stage champions, all-Americans and academic all-Americans. Last season, the women's cross-country team placed sixth among community colleges nationally in grade-point averages. Erica M. Ginsberg Recognized for screenplay

Erica M. Ginsberg, of Silver Spring, won Best in Show for her short screenplay at the American Visions Festival recently sponsored by American University. Ginsberg, a graduate student in the Washington college's School of Communication, is a program analyst at the State Department's office of language services. Alexandra Desautels Honored for newswriting

Alexandra Desautels, of Silver Spring, a senior at Montgomery Blair High School, won first place in the Children's National Medical Center's Teen Health Writers Contest for a news feature "Aftermath of an Abortion" about teenage pregnancies. The story originally appeared in the school paper, Silver Chips, where she is managing features editor. Desautels also participated in the medical center's annual Student Health Journalists Conference, "Stop the Presses! Writing About Teen Health." Richard Ulrich Commended for career as fire science educator

Richard Ulrich, of Olney, a professor of fire science and English at Montgomery College, has received various commendations for his 20-year career in the Rockville school's fire science program, of which he is coordinator. The commendations came from the governor's office, the Montgomery County offices of the Fire and Rescue Commission and the Department of Fire Rescue Services, and the faculty and student advisory committees of the college. Myles M. Hokama Received dental fellowship

Myles M. Hokama, of Rockville, recently was awarded fellowship in the American College of Dentists. Fellowship in the society is by invitation and is based on the recipient's leadership and contributions to the dental profession.

Hokama, who practices in Rockville, is president of the Frederick County Dental Society and chairman of its Peer Review Committee. Organizations

Three Prince George's County schools recently were honored by Citizens Concerned for a Cleaner County for collecting the most paper and aluminum for recycling. The schools are North Forestville Elementary School, Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School and Eleanor Roosevelt High School.

CHI Centers Inc., of Silver Spring, a 50-year-old agency that helps people with developmental disabilities, received a certificate of recognition from the Maryland Quality Award Board of Examiners for its service to residents of Montgomery, Prince George's and Howard counties.

The Northern High School Marching Band, of Calvert County, under the direction of Phil Kancianic, won third place in the Atlantic Coast Tournament of Bands Championship recently in Scranton, Pa.

The students at Our House, a youth rehabilitation home, were named the Howard County Volunteer Organization of the Year by the Howard County Council for completing more than 2,000 hours of community service throughout the county last year. CAPTION: Erin Gargan, 15, practices Irish dancing at her Millersville home. She and several others from the area will be attending the world champion- ships in Ireland in April.