By: Nathan Elliott, Carolina News
While most of the sports world is focused on the heat on the basketball hardwood, or America's pastime that's just around the corner, there is a new sport that gripped Columbia this weekend.
Quidditch, a game that once only existed in the fictional world of Harry Potter, has flown off the screen and has captured a fan base in the real world.
This weekend, teams came from across the Southeast to compete in the South Regional Quidditch Championship at Saluda Shoals Park.
Fans showed up to support their favorite teams, and others came out to learn more about the peculiar sport.
The game is played by riding a "broomstick", and trying to throw a ball through a hoop to score points. During the match though, players may run into one another, and hit each other with balls.
"Early, I thought it was silly," says Steven Schwark, a player on the Carolina Heat. "I never thought that it would be something that I got so into, and so passionate about."
While some may not know of the sport, Columbia has become a welcoming battle ground for the players and fans.
"We've really been embraced by the local community here in Columbia," says Sarah Woolsey, an executive director of the event.
Woolsey, a former player herself, says the sports atmosphere is what draws fans, and puts it apart from other sports.
"Our teams have a really cohesive and and inclusive sense of a community compared to other sports," she says of the players, "and to just seeing that high competition on the field, but still great sportsmanship off the field, is really fantastic."
Schwark, who traveled from just down the road to play says this tournament ranks among his favorite.
"All of the teams here, they want to be here," he says, "everyone has got the same goal, everyone wants to win the championship."
Calie Criscione, who traveled all the way from the University of Miami, says the tournament was worth the trip.
"It was over 10 hours, with the stops for lunch and dinner."
While teams came from all over, some had a much shorter drive.
"I love that it's in Columbia," says Brandon Milhorn, a Quidditch fan from the Midlands, "since it's in my own backyard, I can actually come and support it."
After all of the matches, the Florida's Finest team from the Sunshine State captured the title, and will compete for the National Championship in Kissimmee, Florida in April.
While the regional championship has flown out of the Midlands, players and fans hope to keep the sport around Columbia for all to enjoy.