Fort Mill Times

National kayak polo event coming to Lake Wylie

Some of the best kayak polo players in the country play at McDowell Nature Preserve. Come Labor Day weekend, they’ll get a chance to prove it.

McDowell hosts the national championship for the sport Aug. 30-Sept. 1. McDowell last hosted the event in 2010. Carolina Kayak Polo Club also brought the event to the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center in 2007, a year after the club won its first second tier title.

Athletes typically attend from San Francisco, New England, Texas and other locales.

“If I had to give a rough guess right now, 60 athletes?” said Kim Parker, member of the Charlotte club and women’s national team. “(There are) seven to 10 clubs from East to West coasts.”

Elite female players will make the trip to Charlotte hoping to build off their most successful year yet in 2013. Last year, the women’s national team held its final selection camp at McDowell before heading to the World Games in Cali, Colombia. They had never before qualified for worlds.

They have since trained at McDowell, practicing there as recently as May. The national tournament is a gathering opportunity for the widespread team that won’t go to waste.

“The U.S. Women will be there preparing for worlds in France (in September),” Parker said.

The Charlotte club practices all year, at McDowell during the warmer months and inside at the aquatic center during the winter. The club began play on Lake Wylie in 2006. They’ve won multiple Club B, or second tier, national championships.

Kevin Metcalf, operations manager at McDowell, hopes the upcoming championship will show off the area inside and outside of the preserve’s gates.

“It’s a nice little highlight for Charlotte,” Metcalf said.

Metcalf looks forward to McDowell representing the larger park system in Charlotte to an even wider audience at nationals.

“It’s great to have people coming in from all over the country for a national event,” he said. “It gives people an opportunity to see what great parks we have here and what great facilities we have here.”