Park City girls water polo wins first state title
Boys take home third place
In a town known for its Olympians, another Olympic sport is taking hold in Park City: water polo.
The Park City High School girls team won its first state water polo championship last month with a victory over Kearns, while the boys team finished in third place.
After trailing Kearns 2-0 early on, the Miners came back and tied the game at two in the first quarter. Park City had a 4-2 lead at halftime and pulled away in the second half to win 10-6.
“The team just really came together and they were calm, they were patient, they looked for the open opportunity,” assistant coach Heather Flynn said. “Some of our stronger players, Kearns did a good job of shutting them down, but other girls stepped up.”
In the third-place game for the boys, Park City trailed 6-5 at halftime following a second quarter that featured eight goals. The Miners scored eight goals in the second half in a 13-11 win.
The strong results have put PCHS at the forefront of water polo’s expanding popularity in Utah.
The sport has been historically associated with warm-weather coastal states — California colleges have won the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments every year since the women’s tournament began in 2001, for instance — but it is growing in Park City, as well as in the rest of the state.
“When you think of water polo, I think people think more traditionally maybe California, Hawaii, Florida, you know, states where there’s a lot of swimming and a lot of outdoor pools,” Flynn said. “And when we think of Utah, it’s skiing and snowboarding. I think people would be surprised how many kids are interested in the sport and doing well and having a fun time.”
Flynn said that “close to 10 kids” from Park City qualified for the Olympic development program. She added that the athletes in that program competed against teams from across the United States — with the exception of California — in a recent tournament in San Antonio.
“The kids in the state have had the opportunity to play, whereas the kids in California and a lot of other states have just been, you know, shut down or maybe limited to a little bit of swimming and some passing,” Flynn said, referring to coronavirus restrictions. “Whereas we’ve been able to play on our home court, and that’s been a huge advantage.”
Plus, water polo is likely to receive national attention when the Summer Olympics in Tokyo kick off on July 23. Flynn hopes the visibility the Olympics provide will help the sport continue to grow in Utah and at PCHS, which is aiming to build on the success of this season.
“I think it’s a big year for water polo because it’s an Olympic year, but also because Utah recognized early that it was safe and OK to open pools,” Flynn said.
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