State Games Names 2017 Athletes of the Year
MERIDIAN, MS — A young tennis player who beat cancer, a determined pickleball player and a sharp shooter have captured top honors as 2017 AT&T Athletes of the Year for the State Games of Mississippi. Sunny Logan (Steens), Ken Hall Barnett (Jackson) and Valerie Smith (Collinsville) will be recognized at the annual Athlete of the Year celebration this Saturday and will be torchbearers at the 2018 Opening Ceremony.
Based on the national program, the State Games of Mississippi established the annual “Athlete of the Year” award to recognize Mississippi’s amateur athletes. Coaches, officials, athletes, volunteers and spectators nominated one male and one female athlete from each of the 40 sports for the award. The nominated athletes — out of more than 6,000 who participated in 2017 — personify the ideals of the State Games movement, such as participation, sportsmanship, special attributes, achievements, efforts and positive attitudes.
Sunny Logan — 2017 Youth Athlete of the Year
Thirteen-year-old Sunny Logan was undefeated in the 2017 State Games — an attitude she brought to her battle with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a rare cancer of the lymph nodes. Diagnosed at the age of 10, Sunny faced the disease head-on at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, where breakthrough medicine has pushed survival rates to 90 percent for the type of cancer Logan suffered from. In 2017, Sunny was the G14 Sweet 16 Champion, and the G12/G14 Candy Classic Champion in both 2017 and 2017. Also in 2017, Sunny was the Girl Singles 4-A Champion.
She was featured on the Today Show for her courageous battle with cancer. On the show, she talked about meeting Maria Sharapova. “We had been talking about her all day,” Sunny told Matt Lauer live on Today. “I was hitting some serves and I turn around, and there she is — I was just speechless. I did not know what to do!”
Ken Hall Barnett — 2017 Male Athlete of the Year
Financial consultant Ken Hall Barnett is a big fan of pickleball, which was a new sport at the State Games this year. “”I played in the Mid-South Regional at the University of Louisiana and won a silver medal in the Men’s Doubles for 60+. My doubles partner and I spearheaded the effort to bring pickleball to the Country Club of Jackson — and we now have more than 50 members of our club playing.”
Ken Hall entered the 60 & Over Men’s Singles, Doubles and Mixed Doubles at this year’s State Games, and won in all events. “I played tennis for a long time,” he said, “and now really enjoy pickleball.” Ken Hall has been in the investment industry for 35 years, and is married to Cherri Barnett, a long-time teacher and director of Ballet MS.
Valerie Smith — 2017 Female Athlete of the Year
Valerie Smith is handy with guns — in fact, she entered .22 Precision Long Rifle, 3 Gun Challenge and Pistol events and was the overall top shooter and High Lady in all events. Valerie has been in the sport for nine years and began shooting to spend more time with her husband. And now shooting is her passion. “It is important for beginners to learn the heart of the sport,” she said. She mentors younger shooters at Battlefield Shooting Range in Collinsville. A Registered Nurse, Valerie volunteers with Relay for Life with East Mississippi State Hospital.
In a male-dominated sport, she really stands out, because she is always looking to top her last score. She was the 2017 Mississippi 3 Gun Nation State Champion High Lady. Valerie is also a firearm instructor for concealed carry courses and to receive enhanced carry endorsement.
State Games of Mississippi
The State Games of Mississippi kicks off with an Olympic-style Opening Ceremony each year in Meridian. All three of the 2017 Athletes of the Year will have the honor of lighting the torch at the 2018 Opening Ceremony. Events for athletes are held throughout the months of May and June in various locations around the state.
The State Games of Mississippi keeps its entry fees low primarily through the generous donations of sponsors, including Founding Gold Sponsors: Meridian Coca-Cola Bottling Company and Rush Hospital; and Gold Sponsors: AT&T, BlueCross BlueShield of Mississippi, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians/Pearl River Resort, Meridian-Lauderdale County Tourism Bureau/Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors, Structural Steel, WTOK-TV, The Meridian Star and WMDN/WGBC-TV (The Meridian Family of Stations). For more information on the Games, call 800-482-0205 or visit the State Games of Mississippi website at www.stategamesofms.org.