State Games of Mississippi Athletes of Year Recognized

 In the photo:

From left: Amanda Bratu (State Games, Missye Dozier (State Games), Zauria Clark, Gov. Tate Reeves, Sheryl West, Justin Strickler and Rhonda Brand (State Games).


JACKSON, MS — The State Games of Mississippi 2023 Ochsner Rush Athletes of the Year were recognized by the Mississippi State legislature and met Gov. Tate Reeves during a recent visit to the Capitol.

More than 5,000 athletes participated in the 2023 games, and these three personified the ideals of the State Games in participation, sportsmanship, special achievements and positive attitudes.

The three athletes, who each competed in the 2023 games, not only overcame challenges, but also competed in multiple sports to be named Ochsner Rush Health Athletes of the Year. Zauria Clark of Meridian (Youth Athlete), Sheryl West of Hickory (Female Athlete) and Justin Stricker of Clinton (Male Athlete) met Gov. Reeves and will have the additional honor of carrying the torches in the 2024 Opening Ceremony to light the State Games cauldron.

The State Games of Mississippi hosted more than 5,000 amateur athletes in more than 40 sports in 2023. “It is a great honor to be recognized by our statewide lawmakers and Gov. Reeves,” said Missye Dozier, Executive Director of the Games. “State Games holds sporting events throughout the state, creating multiple opportunities for amateur athletes and contributing to the economies of each city in which they are held.”

Zauria Clark — 2023 Youth Athlete of the Year

Fourteen-year-old Zauria Clark of Meridian excels at Track & Field (for which she took home four gold medals medal at the State Games this year) but also competed in softball and plays volleyball. This ninth grader at Meridian High School was named South State Champion for Track & Field at MHS. She credits her mom Wende Moffit for “keeping her on track,” she said. “She is a single mom of three and helps me and my two sisters to be the best we can be. She always supports us in every way.” Zauria looks to her faith as well. “I’m trying to be what God wants me to be.”

Sheryl West — 2023 Female Athlete of the Year

Hickory resident Sheryl West is a long-time supporter and participant in the State Games of Mississippi. Competing since 2014 in the Trail Run competition (with seven gold medals to her credit), this year Sheryl added Cycling to the list. And she did well in Cycling, taking home a gold medal with a race time of 53:12 for the 13-mile course in her age group. Despite health issues and injuries (including colon surgery), Sheryl does not stop. “I exercise (run, bike or swim) 5 to 6 days a week. I enjoy the excitement of competition events and the thrill of crossing the finish line.” Sheryl has competed in triathlons, half-marathons, the Singing Brakeman Century Ride (30 miles) and has the goal of competing in the 2023 Singing Brakeman Century Ride Metric race — a mere 62 miles!

Justin Strickler — 2023 Male Athlete of the Year

Justin Strickler of Clinton took aim at three sports in the State Games this year — Pistol, 2-Gun and Sporting Clays. During the State Games Pistol competition, Justin won the gold medal for the fastest time of 114.68 seconds. In the Sporting Clays competition, he won gold for shooting 97 out of 100 clay targets. To top it off, he won the gold in the 2-Gun event as well. Active in the shooting sports for 10 years, Justin says it affords him the opportunity to be with his son. “Shooting sporting clays is something my son and I enjoy doing together and is a great way for us to get some quality time.”