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2020 RUSH Athletes of Year Named

State Games Names 2020 Athletes of the Year

MERIDIAN, MS — The three winners of the 2020 Rush Athletes of the Year for the State Games of Mississippi show the diversity of athletes from across the state. 5K runner Chet Nicklas (Enterprise), swimmer Sarah Misiak (Columbus) and All-Star Baseball player Leighton Jenkns (Meridian) not only compete in sports well, but show other winning talents.

The State Games of Mississippi has been fortunate to hold more than half of its yearly sporting events, despite the restrictions and concerns raised by the global COVID-19 pandemic. “We have been so fortunate to have athletes, volunteers and families enthusiastically endorse our efforts to hold sporting events. Plus, the unwavering support of our Board of Directors, sponsors and staff has allowed our statewide amateur sporting events to endure,” said Executive Director Carolyn Smith.

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 2020 sports for the award. The nominated athletes personify the ideals of the State Games movement, such as participation, sportsmanship, special attributes, achievements, efforts and positive attitudes. Three final winners are chosen: Male, Female and Youth Athletes of the Year.

Chet Nicklas — 2020 Male Athlete of the Year

Enterprise native Chet Nicklas, a 5K runner, won the 5K and Trail Run this year at the State Games. A chemistry teacher, football coach and bus driver at Clarkdale High School, this versatile athlete is also the youth leader at Linwood Baptist Church in Union. It’s a family affair for the Nicklas family — his two sons (5th and 3rd grades) have competed and placed in the State Games.

Chet is pursuing a doctorate in Rural Education from the University of West Alabama on top of all of his other responsibilities. What makes his running — he has won more than 20 medals during his career — more remarkable is that Chet suffers from asthma.

Sarah Misiak — 2020 Female Athlete of the Year

Sarah Misiak hails from Columbus and has been a competitive swimmer since her high school and college days, but took many years off to focus on her family — husband and four boys (the youngest 13, the oldest 20). About 10 years ago, Sarah started swimming competitively again, entering the National Senior Olympic Games twice. She won three Gold medals in the 2017 Birmingham games and two Golds and a Bronze in the Albuquerque games.

She has competed in the State Games for six year and said this about State Games Swimming Commissioner Wade Heggie: “Wade and his team put on such an uplifting, well-organized, fun event every year and held an especially ‘safe’ event this year. It meant a lot to me physically, mentally and spiritually to be able to compete and have wonderful fellowship during such trying times.”

Leighton Jenkins — 2020 Youth Athlete of the Year

Youth Athlete of the Year Leighton Jenkins of Meridian started playing in the State Games when he was seven (in soccer) but baseball has always been his favorite sport. This All-Star shortstop player is a senior at West Lauderdale High School and trains under Coach Jason Smith. He won Defensive Player of the Year in his junior year and has committed to playing baseball at East Central Community College when he starts college in 2021.

During the 2020 State Games All Star tournament, Leighton went 8 for 16, with 1 homerun, 1 triple. 2 doubles, 4 singles and 8 RBI’s.

He is not only athletic, but smart. Leighton is a member of the National Honor Society and the National Society of High School Scholars.

Other nominees for the RUSH Athlete of the Year included:

Zoe Clymer, 5K —Collinsville

Brian Stokes, Archery — Toomsuba

Kristen Miles, Archery — Philadelphia

Troy Harper, Bowling — Meridian

Amanda Joyner, Bowling — Union

Andy McDonald, Corn Hole —Bailey

Emily Arias, Corn Hole —Bailey

Jerry Saxton, Disc Golf — Hattiesburg

Ben Kazden, Disc Golf —Choctaw

Jimmy McKay, Master Swimming —Madison

Harleigh Culpepper, Softball — Collinsville

Roxanne Gay, Sporting Clays — Vicksburg

Bobby Brister, Sporting Clays —Madison

Mickey May, Trail Run — Collinsville

Sadie Reed, Trail Run —Meridian

Connor Daughtery, Volleyball — Ridgeland

Kim Smith, Volleyball — Bailey

Bailey Farley, Youth Soccer — Meridian

Wilson Varnado, Youth Soccer —Bogalusa