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.
The 2017 Pumpkin Run sponsored by State Games of Mississippi and Structural Steel Services had a large turnout on a perfect day for running. More than 75 participants gathered at Bonita Lakes for the event, many in costumes.
The Male Overall Winner was Ezekiel Hutchinson, age 16, with a time of 20:14 and the Female Overall Winner was Emily Martelli, age 32, with a time of 22:31.6. For a full list of winners, go to the Pumpkin Run page on this website and click “results.”
Pumpkin Run Children’s Costume Contest winners from left: Ginner Rigdon, Olivia Shirley and Taylor Ivey.
Pumpkin Run Adult Costume Contest winners, from left: Karen Pierce, Katy Nofire, Shawn Strait, Trisha Niswander and Ahna Niswander.
1M Pumpkin Run Male medalists, gold, silver and bronze from left: Preston Perret, Grey Snowden and Josh Wells.
1M Pumpkin Run Female medalists, gold, silver and bronze from left: Elizabeth Shirley, Olivia Shirley and Olivia Hayes.
AT SENATE — The Mississippi Senate issued proclamations for the 2016 State Games of Mississippi AT&T Athletes of the Year at the Capitol. From left are: C.D.Smith, AT&T; Megan Heggie, Meridian; Terry C. Burton, Senate President Pro Tempore; Evelyn Watkins, Meridian; and Krilecia Gianakos, Marketing Director for the State Games of Mississippi.
Senate Honors AT&T Athletes
Mississippi’s premier athletes were honored recently in Jackson with a presentation of State Senate resolutions commending their prowess and excellence in sports.
Honored were Megan Heggie, 12, of Meridian, the 2016 State Games of Mississippi AT&T Youth Athlete of the Year, who has participated in the State Games of Mississippi since 2012 and has won 17 gold medals in individual events and five in relay events. During the 2016 State Games, Heggie competed in the largest age group at the meet and placed in the top eight in all of her events. She also broke eight team records during the Games.
Runner and trainer Evelyn Watkins, 36, of Meridian, overcame surgeries on her feet to run marathons, triathlons and more and was named the 2016 Female Athlete of the Year. Watkins was first in her age group at the 2016 Games in the 5K Run, second overall in the female division and seventh overall in the event.
Brian Fleming, of Shubuta, 2016 State Games of Mississippi AT&T Male Athlete of the Year, hit 93 of 100 targets in his most recent outing at the 2016 State Games and won the gold medal. Sporting clays is a form of clay pigeon shooting, often described as “golf with a shotgun” because a typical course includes from 10-15 different shooting stations laid out over natural terrain. Fleming has been the Mississippi sporting clays champion four times and a Zone 6 champion, which encompasses Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana. He won silver medals in the 2014 and 2015 State Games.
The 2016 Athletes of the Year visited the Capitol in Jackson. They will also have the honor of lighting the torch at the 2017 State Games of Mississippi opening ceremonies in Meridian June 16.
Be a Volunteer!
With more than 40 sports and 5,000 athletes, the State Games of Mississippi needs a lot of volunteers to keep things running smoothly.
Volunteers receive a FREE Volunteer T-Shirt, make fast friends and are honored at a banquet each year.
Do you have what it takes to be a State Game of Mississippi volunteer? If so, email us. We look forward to working with YOU!
State Games of Mississippi Adds Pickelball to Sport Lineup
BILOXI, MS — In a first for the State Games of Mississippi, pickleball — a sport that combines elemnts of badminton, tennis and table tennis — will make its debut May 5-6 in Biloxi at the A.J. Holloway Sports Complex.
Now in its 26th year, the State Games of Mississippi is a statewide sports fest featuring 40 sports for amateur athletes throughout the months of May and June. Pickleball, for two, three or four players, uses solid paddles to hit a ball similar to a whiffle ball over a net, with rules similar to those in tennis.
“We are excited to offer this sport to the State Games of Mississippi,” said Carolyn Smith, Executive Director. “We have a very enthusiastic pickelball comissioner, Ron Eaton, who persuaded us to add this very popular sport.”
Pickleball was invented in 1965 by Joel Pritchard, a congressman from Washington State, and his friend Bill Bell. When faced one night with families who had “nothing to do,” the pair went to play badminton, but could not find rackets. With great improvising, they used ping-pong paddles, lowered the badminton net and used a whiffle ball. By 1967, the first pickleball court was built and by 1976, the sport was recognized in Tennis magazine as “America’s newest racquet sport.”
In the May competition this year, pickleball will feature divisions for all ages, including juniors, and will award gold, silver and bronze medals in each division. Singles, doubles and mixed doubles events will be offered. Registration is open now at www.stategamesofms.org and the entry fee of $30 includes a t-shirt and lunch.
The State Games of Mississippi celebrates each year with an Olympic-style Opening Ceremonies in Meridian. The Opening Ceremonies will be held Friday, June 16, complete with a parade of athletes, the lighting of the State Games torch and fireworks.
The State Games keeps its entry fees low primarily through the generous donations of sponsors, including Founding Gold Sponsor: Meridian Coca-Cola Bottling Company and Rush Hospital; and Gold Sponsors: AT&T, the City of Meridian, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Pearl River Resort, Visit Meridian/Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors, Structural Steel Services Inc., The Meridian Star, WTOK-TV and WMDN/WGBC-TV. For more information on the Games, call 800-482-0205 or visit the State Games of Mississippi website at www.stategamesofms.org.