Anika Riley

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Professional and amateur bikers from across the country and the globe traveled to Rock Hill last month for the USA BMX Carolina Nationals, which drew a record number of competitors.

Riders young and old — ranging in age from 3 to 60 — all took part in the historic event at the Rock Hill BMX Supercross Track, competing in amateur and professional races throughout the three-day event March 29-31.

“I love this track. I’ve been racing before here for the World Cups and it’s fun,” said Andrea Escobar Yepes, a professional BMX rider from Colombia. “It’s definitely fun to be able to race during this time that is so complicated with COVID.”

Mike King, Rock Hill’s BMX track supervisor, said the event drew more than 1,600 riders and officials from Visit York County told CN2 News the event helped bring in more than $5 million to the local economy.

“I think everyone knows that Rock Hill and the Rock Hill BMX Supercross Track is a premium venue and everyone has been talking about it,” said King. “The proof is here and we’ve got a packed house.”

King estimated the races also drew more than 5,000 spectators to the track near the Rock Hill Riverwalk.

“I think it’s great, it’s great competition for the children; they get to actually meet a lot of their idols they see on TV,” said Mike Doe, a father of two boys who participated in the youth BMX races.

“It’s a great experience for everybody; racers, parents (and) families that get together and support each other. I mean you couldn’t really ask for much more,” said Doe.

King said the Carolina Nationals featured an international qualifying race for the Tokyo Olympics this August and served as the national championship for USA Cycling.

Spectators also got the opportunity to see Alise Willoughby, one the sport’s top athletes who is considered to be a top contender to win a gold medal in Tokyo after she captured the title at the 2019 World Championships and a silver medal at the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio.

“Rock Hill has hosted multiple World Cups and it was actually my first World Championship win in Elite back in 2017, so it holds a little special place in my heart being back here,” Willoughby told the Charlotte Observer.

Willioughby captured the top spot in the elite women’s division at this year’s event in Rock Hill.

This was the seventh consecutive year that the Carolina Nationals were held in Rock Hill and the venue will host the state championships in October and the World Championships in 2024.