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RUSH Athletes of Year for 2021 Named

State Games Names RUSH Athletes of Year for 2021

State Games of Mississippi 2021 Rush Athletes of the Year, from left,
are Male AOY Hunter Luis Melendez,
Female AOY Tere Turner and Youth Athlete of the Year Cooper Conner. 

 

MERIDIAN, MS — The three winners of the 2021 Rush Athletes of the Year for the State Games of Mississippi show the courage and strength of athletes from across the state. Track and Field participant Hunter Luis Melendez (Laurel), Mountain Biker Tere Turner (Madison) and Soccer player Cooper Conner (Wiggins) all had to overcome adversity and challenges to win the honors.

The State Games of Mississippi was able to come back strong for its 30th year in 2021, with most of its sports and more than 5,000 competitors. “Coming off of 2020 and the restrictions of the pandemic, we were gratified to have such a successful entry into our third decade,” said Carolyn Smith, executive director. “It has been amazing to see the levels of competition and the spirit of our sponsors and volunteers.”

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 2021 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.

Hunter Luis Melendez • 2021 Male Athlete of the Year

If adversity were a sport, then State Games of Mississippi 2021 Male Athlete of the Year Hunter Luis Melendez would receive a gold medal.

The 22-year-old Track and Field competitor from Laurel, MS, has felt the pull of family needs above his athletic dreams, even turning down offers to run track in college to help his grandmother as she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Plus, he broke his foot in 2017 and missed the last month of his senior year in sports.

Despite the challenges and dealing with family crises, Hunter found a good coach and the strength to persevere, winning Gold in the 2021 State Games of Mississippi and hitting his personal best in the 100m and 200m Track and Field events. He also won gold in 2020, 2019 and 2018 in the Games.

Currently a student at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Hunter has won other medals, including second place in the 100m at the State Games of America and a second in the 200m. From 2015 to 2018, he was a Mississippi District Champion in the 100m and the 200m.

 

Tere Turner • 2021 Female Athlete of the Year

When Mountain Biker Tere Turner crashed during the 2021 State Games of Mississippi and broke her arm, she got right back up and completed the race. It is this grit and accomplishment that made her the perfect recipient of the 2021 Female Athlete of the Year honor.

Tere, who hails from Madison, MS, has won many races despite falls, including Gold in the 2018 and 2019 State Games. The 47-year-old has also won a Silver in the Games, plus was the Champion in her category in the Gulf Coast Regional Mountain Bike series in 2018 and 2019.

Sports Commissioner Grayson Edwards said, “Tere does not know the meaning of the word ‘quit.’ Tere took a tumble off her bike and injured her wrist early in the race, but got up and kept walking the course, determined to finish. Race officials alerted the on-site ambulance crew, but Tere wanted to continue. Her determination to finish despite a difficult challenge earned her this nomination.”

 

Cooper Conner • 2021 Youth Athlete of the Year

The 2021 State Games of Mississippi Youth Athlete of the Year faced a devastating time before his first soccer game because his dad suffered a massive heart attack. Twelve-year-old Cooper Conner of Wiggins, MS, came straight from the hospital and stayed with his soccer coach and team while his dad was in surgery. Despite his worry about his father, Cooper said “I know my Dad would want me to play and I can’t let my coach or teammates down.”

Cooper played in the soccer competition Saturday; his dad died that afternoon. After hearing and digesting the awful news, Cooper said he wanted to stay and play the Sunday games in honor of his father.

“His courage was remarkable,” said his coach. “He even made a goal during the Sunday game from a penalty kick.”

Cooper’s resilience was also tested in March of 2020 when he fractured his ankle during a game. He was in a wheelchair, then crutches before he could walk again. He came back faster and stronger, playing with his team in August 2020.

Other nominees for the 2021 Rush Athlete of the Year included:

Lamar Smith, Bowling -Meridian

Louisa Leclerc, Bowling -Brandon

Joel Gordy, Trail Run -Meridian

Summer Riley, Trail Run -Meridian

Les Goff, Master Swimming -Hattiesburg

Stephanie Cayula, Master Swimming -Waveland

Jackson Lee, All Star Baseball –Calhoun City

Stephen Hudson, Archery -Purvis

Christy Sibley, Archery -Meridian

Abigail Mowery, Softball -Meridian

Dan Murphy, Cornhole -Chunky

Tori Duncan, Cornhole -Collinsville

Makenzie Taylor, Youth Soccer -Pearl

Cooper Conner, Youth Soccer -Wiggins

Cole Tadlock, 5K Road Race -Decatur

Kahrna Stimley-Washington, 5K Walk -Meridian

William Wicht, Axe Throwing -Hattiesburg

Rebecca Gibson, Axe Throwing -Purvis

Avery Anders, 7v7 HS Soccer -Meridian

Sarah Pierce Swift, 7v7 HS Soccer -Meridian

Lalo Carrillo, Cycling -Meridian

Vicki Alexander, Cycling -Meridian

Alex Rowe, Youth Swimming -Vicksburg

Celeste Adams, Youth Swimming -Pelahatchie

Heath Shoemake, Stickball -Philadelphia

Grayson Edwards, Mountain Bike -Flowood

Tere Turner, Mountain Bike -Madison

Thaison Berry, Canoe/Kayak/SUP -Gulfport

Mavis McElroy, Canoe/Kayak/SUP -Toomsuba

Wesley Pippins, Junior Golf -Madison

Harper Hinckley, Junior Golf -McComb

Caroline Fruge, Indoor Volleyball -Meridian

Herb Bennett, Table Tennis -Hattiesburg

Dot Fortenberry, Table Tennis -Meridian

Elliot Tulip, 15 and up Basketball -Meridian

Ryan Robertson, Junior Golf –Crestview, FL

Annabelle Simmons, Junior Golf -Lauderdale

Tanner Beaugez, HS Team Baseball –Ocean Springs

Lucas Sinopoli, Jr High Team Baseball –Ocean Springs

Ashton Fairley, HS Fast Pitch Softball -Lucedale

George Sisson, Barrel Racing -Quitman

Molly Jean Goodwin, Barrel Racing -Lauderdale

Phil Ray, Pistol Competition -Chunky

Carol Rigby, Pistol Competition -Gallman

Joseph Forrester, Youth Archery -Starkville

Jaylyn Bridgman, Youth Archery -Tylertown

Neil Witherow, Pickleball -Jackson

Leigh Ann Ross, Pickleball -Jackson

Judd Smith, Beach Volleyball -Bailey

Parker Bracken, Beach Volleyball -Ridgeland

Matilyn Blackwell, Beach Volleyball -Bailey

Jeremy Hopkins, 3 Gun Competition -Chunky

Nate Phillips, Fencing -Collierville

Ashley Katze, Fencing -Bellebille

Gracie Dinh, 22 Rifle Competition -Starkville

Stephen McDaniel, 22 Rifle Competition -Meridian

Joe Burns, RX Fitness Challenge -Meridian

Emily Arnold, RX Fitness Challenge -Meridian

Hunter Melendez, Track & Field -Laurel

Hailey Truman, Track & Field -Meridian

Eric Johnson II, Sporting Clays -Meridian

Suzanne Todd, Sporting Clays -Meridian

Drew Larsen, Disc Golf -Biloxi

Tommie Dickson, Disc Golf -Gulfport

State Games 30th Year Great Success

State Games 30th Year Great Success

MERIDIAN, MS — The State Games of Mississippi ended its 30th year on a high note, with more than 5,000 athletes competing in events and 450-plus volunteers helping make every competition happen.

“Coming off of 2020 and the restrictions of the pandemic, we were gratified to have such a successful entry into our third decade,” said Carolyn Smith, executive director. “It has been amazing to see the levels of competition and the spirit of our sponsors and volunteers.”

The Coca-Cola Opening Ceremony returned in 2021, complete with the parade of athletes, the running of the State Games torch and the lighting of the flame in the State Games cauldron. The event was attended by more than 7,000 people.

Executive Director Smith received a special surprise at the Opening Ceremony — her two daughters came into town to honor her for her years of service and be with her when she announced her retirement. “It was a total surprise,” Smith said, “and made the event emotional and memorable. Even though I am retiring, I will always have room in my heart for the State Games of Mississippi.” Smith has served the Games in various capacities from the beginning in the 1990s; and has led the organization as Executive Director since 2009.

Sponsors made the games a great success in 2021. “We are extremely grateful to our sponsors for sticking with us last year and excited to be back for our 30th year with 41 sports,” said Director of Marketing and Development Bobbie Harmon.

New to the games in 2021 was Axe Throwing, which was held at Alley Cats Axe Company in Hattiesburg. As with many of the State Games events, different venues are used throughout the state.

“Plus we are able to keep our entry fees low, thanks to our sponsors,” said Harmon.

The ever-popular youth soccer competition, sponsored by Rush, brought top teams from across the state to Meridian. And All Star Baseball brought scouts from across the region to see the best players.

But it wasn’t all about big team sports. The Games brought Pickleball enthusiasts to the net, Cornhole experts armed with bean bags and Fencers doing their best to score points. With 41 sports, there was something for every amateur athlete to enter.

About the State Games of Mississippi

The State Games of Mississippi is now looking to its 31st year in 2022 offering top-level competition for Mississippi’s amateur athletes in more than 41 sports. In 2021, more than 5,000 athletes competed.

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: BlueCross BlueShield of Mississippi, Meridian-Lauderdale County Tourism Bureau/Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors, Paul & Sherry Broadhead Foundation, Meridian Community College, the City of Meridian, Pearl River Resort, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, WTOK-TV, The Meridian Star and WMDN/WGBC-TV (The Meridian Family of Stations). For more information on the Games, call 601-482-0205 or visit the State Games of Mississippi website at www.stategamesofms.org.

 

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Registration Open for 2021 Games

State Games 2021 – 41 Sports, Registration Open

MERIDIAN, MS — The State Games of Mississippi has rebounded into 2021 with 41 sports — including an innovative new one — and registration is now open for Mississippi’s amateur athletes to compete for the gold.

“We are extremely grateful to our sponsors for sticking with us last year and excited to be back for our 30th year with 41 sports,” said Carolyn Smith, Executive Director. “And even more exciting, our Opening Ceremony in downtown Meridian will return June 4.”

New to the games this year is Axe Throwing, which will be held at Alley Cats Axe Company in Hattiesburg. As with many of the State Games events, different venues are used throughout the state. “Plus we are able to keep our entry fees low, thanks to our sponsors,” said Bobbie Harmon, Director of Marketing and Development. If you are interested in Axe Throwing, the event is set for June 12.

The ever-popular youth soccer competition, sponsored by Rush, will bring top teams from across the state to Meridian June 5 and 6. Teams from U9 to U18/19 will vie for the gold medal.

The State Games of Mississippi is particularly noted for its All Star Baseball competition, which begins with tryouts in all eight districts in the state. When the teams converge on Meridian June 10-14 for the finals, scouts from major schools are on hand, looking carefully for the next generation of top players.

But it’s not all about big team sports. The Games this year will bring Pickleball enthusiasts to the net, Cornhole experts armed with bean bags and Fencers doing their best to score points. With 41 sports, there is something for every amateur athlete to enter.

It’s easy to enter. Review all of the sports at our website, stategamesofms.org and get ready to go for the gold.

 

About the State Games of Mississippi

The State Games of Mississippi is now in its 30th year offering top-level competition for Mississippi’s amateur athletes in more than 41 sports. In 2019, more than 5,000 athletes competed.

The Games kick of with an exciting Opening Ceremony in downtown Meridian on June 4, complete with the parade of athletes, lighting of the State Games flame and fireworks.

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: BlueCross BlueShield of Mississippi, Meridian-Lauderdale County Tourism Bureau/Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors, Paul & Sherry Broadhead Foundation, Meridian Community College, WTOK-TV, The Meridian Star and WMDN/WGBC-TV (The Meridian Family of Stations). For more information on the Games, call 601-482-0205 or visit the State Games of Mississippi website at www.stategamesofms.org.

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

 

Sports Proceed Safely Despite Pandemic

State Games Sports Proceed Safely Despite Pandemic

August 24, 2020

MERIDIAN, MS — 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. And some events are still in the offing.

“What a year it has been so far,” said Carolyn Smith, Executive Director. “Whereas we usually hold most of our sports in May and June, this year we’ve spread them out throughout the year, taking into account the safety of everyone who attends. We could not have done it without the help of our RUSH Medical Advisory Team and our sponsors, who saw that — while things are different — the Games have continued.”

The safety of all participants, spectators, volunteers and staff has been at the forefront of each decision to hold an event in 2020. Those sports have included the very popular soccer competitions and All-Star Baseball. Coming up the on the last weekend of August is the Youth Grand Slam Baseball Tournament; as well as Mountain Bike and Martial Arts events that will be held in October and November, respectively.

“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,” Smith said.

Also on the event horizon for the State Game of Mississippi is the annual Pumpkin Run, a 5K event that will be held at Bonita Lakes here on October 17.

“Has the year been unusual? Yes!” Smith said, “But we have shown the resilience and hard work that have characterized the State Games of Mississippi for 29 years. We look forward to the return of a full slate of events and the Opening Ceremony for our 30th year in 2021.”

 

About the State Games of Mississippi

The State Games of Mississippi is now in its 29th year offering top-level competition for Mississippi’s amateur athletes in more than 37 sports. In 2019, more than 5,000 athletes competed.

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: BlueCross BlueShield of Mississippi, Meridian-Lauderdale County Tourism Bureau/Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors, Paul & Sherry Broadhead Foundation, Meridian Community College, 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.

 

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Nominate Your Favorite Athlete & Volunteer

Nominations for Athlete of Year & Volunteer of Year Open

We have been so pleased to offer sports in the unusual year of 2020 — and excited about the participation and the help of our volunteers.

The State Games of Mississippi chooses three athletes each year  — Male, Female and Youth — from nominations in EVERY sport. These three RUSH Athletes of the Year become the torch runners for the 2021 Opening Ceremony.

Coaches, officials, athletes, volunteers and spectators may nominate an athlete for these awards. One female, one male and one youth athlete will be chosen from each sporting event to represent that sport for the 2020 State Games of Mississippi, and three will be named RUSH Athletes of the Year.

Please nominate the athlete of your choice who personifies the ideals of the State Games movement, such as participation, sportsmanship, effort and positive attitude. 

We also recognize the Volunteer of the Year based on your nominations.

Download these forms today to nominate your favorites!

2020 Athlete of the Year Nomination Form

2020 Volunteer of the Year Nomination Form

10 Sports Set for June 2020

Ten Sports Gear Up at State Games — Is Yours One of Them?

PLEASE NOTE: All of these dates are subject to change, due to the pandemic. We will always keep you updated.

 

June 6, 2020

5K Road Race

Volleyball – Youth

June 13, 2020

Softball – Slow Pitch

Volleyball – Two Person

June 13-14, 2020

Archery – 3D & Field

June 19-20, 2020

Softball – Fast Pitch

June 20, 2020

Volleyball – Four Person

June 20-21, 2020

Sporting Clays

June 27, 2020

Trail Run

June 27-28, 2020

Soccer – Youth

 

MERIDIAN, MS — The State Games of Mississippi is pleased to announce that ten sports are ON for June.

“As we said recently, we have been working closely with the governing bodies of the various sports, following the recommendations of Gov. Tate Reeves and local officials, and consulting its Rush Medical Advisory team for guidance on when and how to hold State Games sporting events,” said Carolyn Smith, Executive Director of the State Games.

The safety of all participants, spectators, volunteers and staff at the forefront of each decision to hold an event in 2020, and these ten sports will be no different. “Details on recommendations for social distancing, masks and other aspects that may be different at these events is now available on our website in the various registration forms,” said Smith.

Registration for all ten events is now open. Participants may find forms or register online at StateGamesofMS.org. Athletes and their families will be consistently informed via State Games social media platforms, including the State Games website, Facebook and Constant Contact.

About the State Games of Mississippi

The State Games of Mississippi is now in its 29th year offering top-level competition for Mississippi’s amateur athletes in more than 37 sports. In 2019, more than 5,500 athletes competed.

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: BlueCross BlueShield of Mississippi, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians/Pearl River Resort, Meridian-Lauderdale County Tourism Bureau/Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors, Paul & Sherry Broadhead Foundation, Meridian Community College, 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.

 

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State Games Plans Return to Events in 2020

May 4, 2020

As we continue to navigate the ever-evolving COVID-19 pandemic, the State Games of Mississippi is pleased to share it is planning to hold various events as the year progresses.

“While we love to do everything in one month, that is not possible this year. We will offer opportunities later this year for our athletes to come together for the excitement and joy of competition. And, most important, we will keep safety of all participants, spectators, volunteers and staff at the forefront of our decisions,” said Carolyn Smith, Executive Director of the State Games.

The State Games will be working closely with the governing bodies of the various sports, following the recommendations of Gov. Tate Reeves and local officials, and consulting its Rush Medical Advisory team for guidance.

“As we enter Phases 2 and 3 of reopening our communities, we will be announcing dates and locations for various events — with social distancing carefully considered,” Smith said.

Athletes and their families will be consistently informed of planned events via State Games social media platforms, including the State Games website, Facebook and Constant Contact.

“We encourage everyone to keep these sites on their radar, and we pledge to give you timely updates that allow for planning to register, participate and attend events,” said Marketing and Development Director Bobbie Harmon.

While we are confident many of our premier sports will be held this year, our traditional Opening Ceremony will not go on as scheduled.

“We sincerely appreciate our Opening Ceremony sponsor Coca-Cola Bottling of Meridian — a founding sponsor who has been with us for 29 years — and look forward to a spectacular Opening Ceremony in 2021 to celebrate our 30th year,” Smith said.

“As many factors are still unknown, the holding of events later in 2020 is a challenge, but our 29 years of experience have taught us to meet challenges with innovation and determination,” she continued. “As with other challenges, our sponsors, Board of Directors, staff and volunteers have stepped up to find solutions. We will do it together in 2020.”

About the State Games of Mississippi

The State Games of Mississippi is now in its 29th year offering top-level competition for Mississippi’s amateur athletes in more than 37 sports. In 2019, more than 5,500 athletes competed.

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: BlueCross BlueShield of Mississippi, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians/Pearl River Resort, Meridian-Lauderdale County Tourism Bureau/Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors, Paul & Sherry Broadhead Foundation, Meridian Community College, 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.

 

 

 

2019 Athletes of Year Named

From left, Stephanie Cayula, Tulio Figarola and Larry Dudley.

 

State Games Names 2019 Athletes of the Year

MERIDIAN, MS — The three winners of the 2019 Rush Athletes of the Year for the State Games of Mississippi show the diversity of sports offered to athletes from across the state. Trail runner Larry Dudley (Meridian), cycler Stephanie Cayula (Waveland) and swimmer Tulio Figarola (Madison) were honored at the Athlete of the Year celebration and will be torchbearers at the 2020 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 nearly 6,000 who participated in 2019 — 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.

Larry Dudley — 2019 Male Athlete of the Year

Meridianite Larry Dudley, 74, has been a trail runner for more than 60 years and makes sure to compete on a yearly basis in many area races — plus has medaled 18 times in trail running in the State Games of Mississippi. Running became his way of dealing with health issues. As a young adult, Dudley was diagnosed with circulation issues that primarily affected his legs while playing sports. Told not to participate in strenuous exercise every day, he beat the odds by focusing on running every other day. This routine has continued for more than 60 years and allowed him (with therapy) to continue to run after suffering a herniated disc in 2006.

Stephanie Cayula — 2019 Female Athlete of the Year

Stephanie Cayula, 53, of Waveland has been competing in cycling events since 1996. She placed 11 times in the Mississippi Gulf Coast Bicycle Club-20K Time Trail Series and Medaled 18 times in the State Games of Mississippi. She also medaled 31 times and placed five times in the Mississippi Senior Olympics. Cayula also competes in Shotokan Karate and has achieved a Dan Black Belt. A runner as well, she has competed in numerous AAU State, Regional and National Championships and other sports. She overcame a cycling accident that left her with a broken collar bone, three broken ribs, a punctured lung and road rash — and has become a big supporter of wearing helmets while riding.

Tulio Figarola — 2019 Youth Athlete of the Year

Youth swimmer Tulio Figarola, 10, of Madison, is a student at Madison Avenue Upper Elementary. Despite his young age, Figarola has been competing half of his life. Participating in the State Games for two years now, Figarola broke the state record for the 9- to 10-Year-Old Boys in both the 50 and 100 Backstroke. He achieved the national times standards of a Quad A in the 100 Backstroke; Triple A in the 100 & 200 Freestyle, 50 Backstroke and the 100 & 200 Individual Medly. He was also the overall highest scoring 9- to 10-Year-Old Boys at State Games this year, with 5 Gold and 2 Silver medals. During the swim year, he achieved the national time standards of Quad A in 4 events, Triple A in 10 events and Double A in 9 events.

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 2019 Athletes of the Year will have the honor of lighting the torch at the 2020 Opening Ceremony. Events for athletes are held throughout the months of May and June in various locations around the state.

The other nominees for each sport in 2019 were:

Jeremy Hopkins of Chunky is the Male Athlete of the Year for .22 Caliber Rifle.  He has participated and won medals for two years in a row.  He has also competed in two other events and placed in competitions held at Modern outfitters.

Lauren Hopkins of Chunky is the Female Athlete of the Year for .22 Caliber Rifle. This was Lauren’s first year to compete in the Games and like her father, Jeremy Hopkins, she won Gold. This father/daughter duo will be able to share many memories together in the years to come with their love of the sport.

Griffin Atkinson of Collinsville is the Male Athlete of the Year for 5K Road Race. The last two years he has medaled in 5K Road Race where he was first in his age group and 2nd overall finisher. He also holds the title of All District Cross Country for 2018-2019.

Emily Snodgrass of Meridian is the Female Athlete of the Year for 5K Road Race. Winning more than six Gold medals, Emily is in her fourth year of competing in the State Games. She has a love of running that shows in her wins — she placed fourth in 2018 and second in 2019 in the MSHAA 4A Female XC Varsity State and First Place Female at Allie Cat 5K.

Alan Martin of Philadelphia is the Male Athlete of the Year for Adult Basketball. “Team Skoden has been competing in State Games for several years now and has a great approach to the game. Alan is a player and a coach who has a great attitude even when the game gets a little intense,” says Basketball Sports Commissioner Neil Henry.

Greg Copeland of Escatawpa is the Male Athlete of the Year for Archery. He has participated and medaled in the State Games for three years of his 36 years competing. He is the two-time Texas Field Archery Champion for 2018-2019, two-time MS Archery Association shooter of the Year, 2019 MAA Classic indoor Champion, 2019 NFAA Sectional Indoor Champion, 2018 SYWAB Indoor Champion and placed 3rd in the 2018 AFAA Outdoor National.

Hannah Dickerson of Brookhaven is the Female Athlete of the Year for Archery. She won Gold in both Field and 3D Archery shoots, was Athlete of the Year for MS ASA in 2018 and placed third in the Bayou Championship and first at 2019 AFAA indoor Nationals.

Drew Rogers of Collinsville is the Male Athlete of the Year for Youth Archery. He was the overall winner for grades 7-8 and received a Gold medal for his age division.

Hanna Dyess of Hattiesburg is the Female Athlete of the Year for Youth Archery. She was the overall winner for grades 11-12 and received a Gold medal for her age division.

Creek Robertson of Madison is the Male Athlete of the Year for All Star Baseball. Starting at five years of age, Creek has been playing for 12 years. Due to his dedication and love of the sport, Creek was titled All Region 6A infielder as a Sophomore at Madison Central, his team went undefeated to win Gold for the 2019 State Games and he was chosen to play for Team MS where they won Silver.

Judson Byars of Biloxi is the Male Athlete of the Year for Junior High Team Baseball. Starting at the age of four, Judson has been playing ball for 9 years. As a student at Biloxi Junior High School, Judson and his team, the Biloxi Indians won Silver in the 2019 State Games.

Haleigh McNeil of Enterprise is the Female Athlete of the in Year Barrel Racing. Choosing between her social life and horses was an easy decision for Haleigh and it has paid off. Competing for 16 years with the help of her horses — Kaboon, Splash and Docs Lucky Seal — she is titled the 2017 World All Around Senior Girl Cowgirl for the National Little Britches Rodeo Finals. She has won 12 saddles and more than 100 belt buckles in rodeos and barrel runs to add to her six medals in the State Games.

Ronnie Thomas of Meridian is the Male Athlete of the Year for Bowling. He has been competing for 25-plus years in his sport and has competed almost every year in the State Games. He has such a passion for his sport that he is a Life Member of the Board of Directors of the Meridian Bowling Association, current member of the MS State Board of Directors Bowling Association and past League Secretary of Meridian Bowling Association. His honors include MS Senior Champion 2016, Gold medalist in 2019 State Games of Mississippi, nine unsanctioned 300 games, four sanctioned 300 games and, most recently, Ronnie has been inducted into the Bowling Hall of Fame for 2019.

Allie Williams of Philadelphia is the Female Athlete of the Year for Bowling. She has been competing for eight years where she was the three-time back-to-back State Champion, All Region and All State Team in 2018 and Placed 11th at Junior Gold Championships. She has competed in the State Games for two years and medaled Gold both times.

Jonathan Dickerson of Meridian is the Male Athlete of the Year for Canoe/Kayak/Stand-up Paddle Board. He has competed for just over five years, three of which have been with the State Games where he has brought home three Gold medals and set his personal best record. He is also a  four-time first-in-class finisher and competed and placed in four other events.

Gloria Bailey of Ocean Springs is the Female Athlete of the Year for Canoe/Kayak/Stand-up Paddle Board. She has been competing for a total of eight years, five of which have been with the State Games, bringing in five Gold medals and breaking her personal best time. Across the Southeast, Gloria holds 30 first-place wins and three second-place wins.

Emry Kennedy of Meridian is the Male Athlete of the Year for Cycling. He has such a love for the sport and has placed in many statewide triathlons and races. Emry is the Director of the Sunfish Triathlon and is going on to help with 2020 Cycling Competition for State Games.

Bailey Avalos of Sumrall is the Male Athlete of the Year for Disc Golf. At the age of 8, Bailey is in his first year of Disc Golf and won a Gold medal at this year’s State Games. His love of the game comes from his father, who is a past Disc Golf World Doubles Champion. Bailey also plays in a Disc Golf league and has risen from No. 80 to No. 6 at this time. Balancing marital arts classes, home schooling classes, fishing, swimming and kayaking, Bailey does a good job of juggling everything so he can continue to grow in his sport.

Lakylee Martin of Choctaw is the Female Athlete of the Year for Disc Golf. Her love of sports has driven her to win Gold in Basketball, Disc Golf and Bronze in Fastpitch Softball. Playing at her local park, Lakylee is continuing to improve her skills on the course. Her 2019 Sate Games victory came after having surgery on a torn meniscus and ACL injury jthis year. “2020 will prove to be the best year yet for Lakylee, because she is a shining example of what the State Games hopes to inspire in today’s youth.” Said Disc Golf Sport Commissioner Dale McVeay.

Sean Holmes of Oxford is the Male Athlete of the Year for Fencing. Competing for 27 years now, Sean has quite the Fencing background. He has been a part of the Games for six years bringing home four Golds, three Silvers and one Bronze. His love of the sport has given him the opportunity over the past 20 years to coach hundreds of students.

Lauren Purtle of Southhaven is the Female Athlete of the Year for Fencing. Competing in her sports for over three years now, Lauren has won two Golds. Her team, The Dueling Dawgs Fencing Club, is sure to make a return to the 2020 Games.

Shaquille Fluker of Meridian is the Male Athlete of the Year for Flag Football. Team Arsenal made it through till the end bringing home a Silver medal.

Spence Davis of Madison is the Male Athlete of the Year for Golf.  Competing for more than 10 years, Spence was chosen as State Games overall Golfer. He has competed in many other events outside of State Games and was most recently ranked No. 1 in the Junior Division by the MS Golf Association.

Grace Sinclair of Brandon is the Female Athlete of the Year for Golf. A 10th grader at Jackson Prep, Grace has been competing for three years. Winning First Team All State, Greenwood Invitational, the State Father/Daughter, a boys State Team Title and also a Gold Medal with the State Games, she is  just getting started with her sport and is excited to see what the future holds.

Austin Dungan of Meridian is the Male Athlete of the Year for Jr. Tennis. Bringing home a Gold medal in the U16 Boys division, Austin is sure to make a return to the Games.

Annabelle Simmons of Lauderdale is the Female Athlete of the Year for Jr. Tennis. Entering High School at Lamar, Annabelle has made it to Southern Regionals the past three years where only the top 11 in Mississippi are invited. She is No. 5 in MS in her age group, She won State Championship in doubles for Lamar’s Varsity Tennis Team as an 8th grader this past year and  has won three Golds and one Silver in the three years she has participated in State Games.

Chandler Watson of Laurel is the Male Athlete of the Year for Martial Arts. Participating in the Games for four years, he has medaled each year winning more Gold than Silver. He participated in Nation AAU Martial Arts in 2018 and won Gold in Kumite, AAU Regional Gold in Kumote, Silver in Kata in 2019. He also made it to the Nation NKF Marital Arts Competition in South Carolina in 2017 and again in Chicago in 2019.

Tammy Griffus of Byhalia is the Female Athlete of the Year for Martial Arts. In the 40-45 Female Advanced category, Tammy won the Gold in Kata and in Kumite.

David Lindsey of Canton is the Male Athlete of the Year for Masters Swimming. Competing for several years now, David most recently won Gold in the 45-49 50 Meter Backstroke, 100 Meter Freestyle, the 50 Meter Freestyle and won Silver in the 50 Meter Freestyle.

Andrea Fairchild of Vicksburg is the Female Athlete of the Year for Masters Swimming. For more than 33 year, Andrea has been competing in more than just Masters Swimming. As a multisport competitor, Andrea has an impressive list of wins in Swimming, Track, Volleyball, Discus, Javelin and High Jump. Winning more than 78 Gold Medals and one Silver, it’s no wonder that Andrea has competed multiple times in the State Games of America.

Landen Brookshire of Clinton is the Male Athlete of the Year for Mountain Biking. Although finishing last is not what any competitor wants, Landen proved he was a worthy opponent when his bike chain broke in the first mile and he ran with his bike the last five miles to be classified as a finisher.

Tiffany Landry of Hattiesburg is the Female Athlete of the Year in Mountain Biking. Winning the Women’s Cat 1 race all while stopping during the race to assist a rider who had crashed in front of her shows her great sportsmanship.

Ken Hall Barnett of Jackson is the Male Athlete of the Year for Pickleball. Competing for four years now, Ken has brought home seven Golds and one Silver. He played in his first Pickleball  Tournament four years ago in Monroe, LA, and made it to the finals in doubles at a level of 4.0.

Dianna Warden of Flowood is the Female Athlete of the Year for Pickleball. Winning Gold in the Women’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles, Dianna is sure to be back next year.

Carson Myers of Meridian is the Male Athlete of the Year for Pistol Competition. This is the first year Carson has competed in the State Games and he was able to bring home a Gold Medal. At the young age of 9, Carson’s parents have taught him the responsibilities that come with gun safety and he is excited for what his future holds.

Walker Fairey of Hattiesburg is the Male Athlete of the Year for 7v7 High School Soccer. Walker and his team, Oak Grove, brought home the Gold this year for the 2019 State Games.

Ember Temple of Meridian is the Female Athlete of the Year for 7v7 High School Soccer. Ember has been playing soccer for eight years, six of those years in the Games — winning Gold four times. She has been selected for the Top Drawer Soccer Best Players of MS for High School Soccer, nominated Gatorade Player of the Year, Premier Preps Player of the Year, MS Preps Player of the Year, MS Preps All-State Girls Soccer Team, Clarion Ledger All State Girls Soccer Team and 2019 4A State Champions.

Avery Anders of Meridian is the Male Athlete of the Year for Youth Soccer. He has been competing for 11 years now, 10 of those in the State Games, winning three Golds and four Silvers. He has played travel soccer most of his life and has been recruited to guest play for teams outside of our local area. Avery has been a starter with the Clarkdale Varsity Soccer team since 7th grade playing several positions and was selected as 1st team all-district.

Nori Garcia of Laurel is the Female Athlete of the Year for Youth Soccer. During the Games, Nori spent most of her time playing defense where she aided her team in three awesome wins. When playing one of the highest ranked teams in the Games, she scored the winning goal in overtime. Showing her value, she was promoted to team captain. At the age of 9, 2019 was the second year Nori played in the Games where she now has two Silver medals and she cannot wait to shoot for the Gold in 2020.

Calea Gardner of Meridian is the Female Athlete of the Year for Slowpitch Softball. Calea has played softball since she was 4-years-old when she has competed in the State Games every year.  Three of those years she and her team won Gold. Softball Sport Commissioner Chris Gardner says “Calea is always encouraging during the games whether they are winning or losing and always lends a helping hand to her teammates when needed. She has grown to love softball and every aspect of it.”

Melina Seiferd of Sucier is the Female Athlete of the Year for High School Fastpitch Softball. She has been playing for six years but this was her first year at the State Games where her team, Harrison Central, brought home the Gold. Melina is excited to return to the 2020 games for another victory.

Taijian Dixon of Choctaw is the Male Athlete of the Year for Stickball. Playing for three years now, he has won two Golds and one Silver. His team, Beaver Dam, won the 2019 World Series Stickball Champions Youth Division. Scoring 11 points throughout the tournament with 17 tackles, Taijian has proven himself to be a great athlete at the young age of 11.

Natalie Cox of Madison is the Female Athlete of the Year for Youth Swimming. Competing in the Games for six of the eight years she has been in her sport, she has brought home three Golds. Natalie currently holds 10 State Records and has one Silver and three Bronze medals in her three years of swimming at high school state events.

Eric Smith of Meridian is the Male Athlete of the Year in Table Tennis. He has competed in his sport for more than 20 years now. Eric won the championship game in his brigade while serving in Iraq.

Ni’Riyah Bell of Laurel is the Female Athlete of the Year in Table Tennis. Competing for only a year now, she has won a Silver medal and cannot wait to return to the 2020 Games.

Daniel Hill of Meridian is the Male Athlete of the Year in Track and Field. Having only participated in the sport for four years, Daniel has an impressive record of 11 Gold medals and two Silvers just in State Games. He also has competed in the 2019 USATF Southern Association and Region 6 Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships held in Meridian, MS. In June and July, he qualified for and competed in the USATF National Junior Olympic Champions held in Sacramento, CA.

Princess Grant of Meridian is the Female Athlete of the Year for Track and Field. Competing for more than five years now, she has brought home 14 Golds, four Silvers and one Bronze medal. She is a 2017 State Champion, won second place in the Junior Olympics and firt place at the Galleria Games.

Betty Eaves of Brooksville is the Female Athlete of the Year for Trail Run. Her first ever year to compete in the State Games, Betty received a Gold in our 5K walk and Bronze in Trail Run. For the last three years she has competed in six other runs where is has placed first four times. Doing at least two races a month, Betty keeps herself busy with her love of the sport.

Chuck Dooley of Meridian is the Male Athlete of the Year for Volleyball. He has competed in his sport for 41 years now, three of which were in the State Games, winning a Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. His love of the game spills over into coaching and mentoring children and teens in Volleyball skills and development. Many of these teens have gone on to strengthen Volleyball teams at their selected colleges.

Kenna Turner of Meridian is the Female Athlete of the Year for Volleyball. She has competed for five years in Volleyball and more than that in Softball, bringing home one Gold, two Silver and two Bronze medals. Achieving what she has at the young age of 14, she is sure to have a bright future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harmon Named Director of Marketing & Development

State Games Names New Director of Marketing & Development

MERIDIAN, MS — The Board of Directors of the State Games of Mississippi is pleased to welcome Bobbie Harmon as the new Director of Marketing & Development. Meridianite Harmon brings her skills in customer service and sales to the Games.

“We are excited that Bobbie will be joining the State Games team,” said Carolyn Smith, Executive Director. “Because she is a ‘hometown girl,’ she will be able to hit the ground running in terms of knowing many of our major supporters.”

Harmon comes to the State Games from Meridian Plastic Surgery, where she coordinated patient and physician scheduling as well as financial responsibilities. A graduate of The King’s Academy, Harmon also attended Meridian Community College. Harmon is an ambassador to the EMBDC and an active member of First Assembly of Meridian.

As the Marketing & Development Director, Harmon will manage media for the Games, as well as working with the numerous sponsors.