CLEARWATER (FOX 13) - Wrapped in the red, white, and blue, both the US men's and women's U-20 Water Polo teams are making a big splash in Clearwater - competing against eight other countries in the Junior Pan Am Championships.
Water polo has become the fastest growing amateur sport in the country according to the National Federation of High School Association. It's a combination of swimming, soccer, and basketball that takes an incredible amount of endurance and strength.
The Florida High School Athletic Association recognizes water polo as a varsity sport, but there is no one team from the Bay Area that competes at that level, which is a big reason why US Water Polo chose Clearwater to host this tournament.
"One of the reasons why we chose to host this event here... all the equipment you see behind us, the goals, the lane lines, the balls... US Water Polo is donating and keeping that here," said Chief Performance Officer for USA Water Polo John Abdou. "So that the infrastructure can be built in the community. So we can have long-lasting water polo all across the west coast of Florida."
Right now, high school teams in the Bay Area are playing at the club level with hopes that this event will give them the shot and exposure to elevate this sport in the Bay Area.
"This is my first time representing the USA in a tournament like this," said 16-year-old Malia Allen, of the US women's team. "It's really great to have that pride in your country and to be able to go out in a game and know that you're representing your country with a lot of pride."
"It's a great experience, said 17-year-old Giorgio Alessandria, of the US men's team. "I'm having a lot of fun. I've got to play against a ton of new players I probably would never get to play against. It's just a great experience all around."
The event runs through Sunday a The Long Center.