Sunshine State Games Features Father’s Day Events

Over 700 athletes competed in the Sunshine State Games Track and Field and Table Tennis Championships the weekend of June 20-21 in Charlotte and Polk Counties.

The Table Tennis Championships, held at Simpson Park Community Center in Lakeland, saw a Games record number of participants. According to Tournament Director, Brad Woodington, it was also a record number of entries for Table Tennis in the various state games around the nation.

Players from all parts of Florida and from four additional states were in action over two days of play on 24 tables at the Simpson Park Community Center, and several of the skill-level divisions had as many as 34 players registered.

philvinaydesaiwebFlorida’s highest rated active Table Tennis player, Vinay Desai, of Miramar, and his father, Phil (both pictured above), won gold medals during the two days of play held on Father’s Day weekend. While Vinay won the two most competitive divisions, the Open and Under 2500 Division, gold medals, Phil won the Under 2000 division. Also winning a pair of gold medals was Sherlyn Barvie Perez, of Tampa, who won the Under 2300 and Under 2200 divisions while winning a silver medal in the Under 2000 and a bronze in the Under 2100 division.

Florida’s Track and Field stars of the future competed alongside its current champions at Punta Gorda High School in the Youth Meet on Saturday in Charlotte County.

Representing the St. Pete Nitro club and Lakewood High School, Terence Ware, staked the claim as the “Fastest Man at the Sunshine State Games Youth Championships,” running the 100 meter dash in 10.87 seconds. Malik Wright, of the Track Heads Club, and Alex Gray, also of St. Pete Nitro, were close on his heels with times of 10.90 and 10.95, respectively.

Ware was a second-place finisher at the FHSAA Class 2A State Championships running the 100 meters in 10.64 in May.

The top three women’s discus throws came from the 15-16 year old division as Rikaya Williams, of St. Pete Nitro, led the with a throw of 97 feet. T’erra Johnson, of the Christian Cruisers was right behind with a throw of 96 feet and Elyssa Paulding finished third, throwing 93 feet. Only one other female competitor threw over 90 feet, 17-year old Trinavia Williams, 91 feet in the next age group.

Palm Beach County Festival: Miami’s Masters Fencing Club scores big wins

It was a big day for Miami’s Masters Fencing Club at the SSG Palm Beach County Festival as the club won its fifth consecutive Sunshine State Games Fencing Team Trophy.

CLICK HERE for SSG Videos posted on YouTube


18-year old Gabriel Mejia contributed to the team effort winning the gold medal in the Men’s Epee event, advancing out of a field of 32 fencers. He had eight bouts Sunday and concluded the day with a 15-12 win over Winston Akins, of Melbourne, in the final.

The Championship round did not go more than two points in either of the competitor’s favor. But with the score tied 12-12, Mejia scored the next three points for the gold medal.

“He was too quick for me,” said Akins, a five-year member of the University of Florida Fencing Club, while at school in Gainesville. “I couldn’t defend against him there at the end. He had very good endurance and blade control.”

Akins (pictured below in orange jacket) admitted he ran out of steam after a 15-14 semifinal win over bronze medalist Luboslav Jelev, minutes before going into the final match.


Mejias (pictured above in red jacket) was eager to bounce back in the Epee event after a disappointing finish in the Foil competition Saturday.

“I was fencing for fun today after being too stressed yesterday,” said Mejias, a recent graduate of the College Academy in Weston. “I have a lot of speed from my foil fencing. The epee fencers are very technical. That was my strategy today, to use my speed.”

Mejias was recruited by NYU for his fencing abilities and will begin in the fall to study finance.

Wellington’s Andrew LeMay set a American Collegiate Total Record with his combined total of 682.5 kg. He also tied for the highest combined total of the Heavyweight lifters (93 kg and above) at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. While he tied with Jon Kennedy for the high combined total of 682.5 kg, he weighs 100 less pounds than Kennedy.

The 20-year old University of Florida student had a squat of 518 pounds, a bench press of 358 pounds and a deadlift of 628 pounds.

Lemay is the great-grandson of the late U.S. Air Force Four Star General Curtis Lemay.

The top Taekwondo athletes in the State of Florida were on display today as the Black Belts took to the mats in sparring competition. Among the black belt athletes winning gold medals was Paul McFarquhar, of Ruskin, who won in the 18-29 year old, 145-171 pound division. It marks the fifth consecutive year, McFarquhar has brought home a SSG medal.

Sierra Colton, of Hawthorne, Colton Clifton, of Tampa and Oscar Pablos also repeated as gold medalist in youth divisions.


South Florida team dual matches were held at the wrestling competition with seven teams competing. Among those on the mat Sunday were two-time State 1A Champion Rekwon Regglar, as a member of the South Florida Lightning team.

The 2015 Sunshine State Games calendar of events continues next weekend with the SSG Track and Field Championships at Punta Gorda High School and the SSG Table Tennis Championships at the Simpson Park Community Center in Lakeland. Over 7,500 of Florida’s Finest Amateur Athletes have competed in events of the Sunshine State Games on the 2015 Calendar through this weekend.

Palm Beach County Festival: Family Fun and Record-Breaking Performances

Families competed side by side and against one another, records were broken and athletes returned to competition after taking a much needed break at the Sunshine State Games Palm Beach County Festival Saturday. More than 1,500 athletes competed in eight sports, including seven held at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

It was a big day for Frets and Marcello Olivares, of Hollywood as the Men’s Foil event ended in a father and son matchup in the gold medal match. 14-year old Marcello Olivares defeated, dad, Frets, 15-14 in Championship match.

Following the Men’s Foil bracket, both Olivares’ won gold medals with Frets Winning the Veteran Men’s Foil and Marcello winning the Y-14 Men’s Foil. Olivia Verughese, of Delray Beach (below in picture on right), also won a pair of gold medals winning the Senior Women’s and Y-14 Women’s Foil events.


Sam and Megan Neal are not just an ordinary brother and sister from Gainesville. Today they were a Sunshine State Games Karate gold-medal winning brother and sister combo from Gainesville. While 19 year old Sam won the Men’s Advanced 18-34 Year old Kumite competition, 18-year old Megan won the Women’s Advanced 18-34 year old event. Megan has won SSG gold medals since 2005 and was named the Gainesville Sun’s 2015 Weightlifter of the Year

Nu Yu Taekwondo, from Morriston, won the SSG Team Trophy, awarded to the team who has the best representation and results. Nu Yu brought 14 athletes to the Palm Beach County Convention Center and each of the athletes won at least two gold medal, according to Sport Director, Master James White, of Tampa.

Jacksonville’s Jeremy Simmons and his three daughters (Kate, Lauren, Heidi) and son (Andrew), ranging in age from 6 to 12, totaled 11 Taekwondo medals. Jeremy, a 5th Dan Kukkiwon Black Belt, and instructor at the Korean Taekwondo of America Club (KTA), decided not to compete, but provided moral support along with his wife, Pam

It was a record-setting day at the Powerlifting competition as 10 USA Powerlifting American records were shattered.

Brianna Morrison, a 13-year old from Hastings, set thee American Youth Records and Suzanne LaForge set three American Masters 2 (age 50-59) Records with a squat of 309 pounds, a deadlift of 407 pounds and a total of 881 pounds.

Evan Higbee, from Wellington, and Katarina Hennessey, of Miami, set records in the Teenage Division. Hennessey’s record came on her bench press of 89 pounds and Higbee’s deadlift of 414 kilos was a record setter. It was 15-year old Katarina Hennessey’s first meet after taking up the sport two months ago, according to her father, Dr. Bill Hennessey, coach of the Florida International University Powerlifting Team.

Jordan Berke, of Palm Beach Gardens (pictured below), and Wellington’s Nick Isreal, both top-ranked lifters by USA Powerlifting, posted record-setting American Open performances as Berke had a deadlift of 622 lbs and Isreal had a squat of 518 pounds and a bench press of 363 pounds.


“We had two of the top lifters within their weight classes in the country here today at the Sunshine State Games,” said Powerlifting Sport Director, Robert Keller, from Davie, speaking of Berke and Isreal.

Berke, who is one of the founding members of the Florida State University Powerlifting team, had the highest combined lift of all athletes Saturday with 1,578 pounds. He had a deadlift of 622 pounds, a squat of 534 pounds and a bench press of 421 pounds.

Kyle Hannah, of Team Florida Volusia County and Weightlifting coach at Spruce Creek High School, had the highest total of the day of the men’s weightlifters with a combined 696 pounds. He had a Clean and Jerk of 388 pounds and a snatch of 308 in the senior division. Not too far behind with Team Florida Volusia County teammate Christian Seymour, and Paul Smith Team Florida Manatee County with a combined total of 599 pounds.

The top female lifter was Jennifer Schrage, of West Palm Beach, with a combined lift of 394 pounds (220 clean and jerk, 174 snatch).

After taking a break from Judo, LaQuinta Allen, of Lauderdale Lakes (pictured below), returned to the mats at the 2015 Palm Beach County Festival with a gold-medal winning performance. Allen, who last competed in the Sunshine State Games in 2006, was a member of the 2010 Senior World Championship Team and Junior Pan American Championship team that won a silver medal. She won a bronze medal at the 2010 USA Judo Senior National Tournament. She won the gold medal in the Women’s 17-29, all over 70kg Division, winning three matches.


The SSG Judo Outstanding Adult Female Athlete was Margarita Cabrera, of Tuero Judo Club, while the Outstanding Male Athlete was Alejandro Casuso, of Mambie Judo. The Outstanding Junior Male Athlete was Alejandro Lopez, of the Tuero Judo Club. Brian Germain, an athlete and coach from Bartow, was awarded the Renee Duchene Award, for his contributions to the sport of Judo in Florida.

Individual Folkstyle, Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling was on the mats Saturday and seven wrestlers won two gold medals in the three events. Adrian Neco, of Somerset Wrestling had two in the Lower 85 pound division. Three members of the Homestead PAL team won a pair. Tyree Graham and Jahiem Trice, in the Early 50 and 65 pound divisions, respectively, and Santiago Arciniega, in the Lower 110 pound division, Luis Pereza, of Gladiator Wrestling, won in the Middle 95 pound division and Zachery Sherman, of Eagle Empire Wrestling won a pair in the Upper 137 pound division.

In the only sport not held at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, Garrett Dew won a pair of gold medals in BMX Cycling at Okeeheelee Park. Of the over 80 riders competing, Dew was the only one to win both events held.

Sunday – Day Two – at the Sarasota-Bradenton Festival

Sunshine State Games athletes dodged thunderstorms Sunday but all events were completed and champions were crowned in Canoe/Kayak, Synchronized Swimming and Ultimate in Sarasota. Swimming wrapped up after three days in Gainesville, where thunderstorms delayed events on occasion.

The two Ultimate Champions emerged undefeated in the Open and Mixed Divisions at the 10th Anniversary of the sport joining the Games. Force defeated Wooly Mammoth 7-1 in the Championship Game of the Men’s Open and G Unit beat Swing State 12-8 in the Mixed Division Final.

Both runners up suffered their only two losses of the tournament to the champions, losing in pool play Saturday and again in the championship bracket on Sunday.

ultimate layout winner

Following the championship games, Jonnie Lancaster (pictured above), of the Mixed Division team, KOD Y, won the annual Ultimate Layout competition, where athletes find creative ways to throw and catch discs on a tarp drenched with water and dish soap. Lancaster propelled himself over a motorized cart at the Premier Sports Complex to earn the award and much respect from his fellow Ultimate players.

LUFA, from Lakeland, won the Spirit of the Game Award, signifying sportsmanship that places the responsibility for fair play on the player, while staying highly competitive, but never at the expense of mutual respect among competitors

Leading the way in Saturday’s Rowing competition were the home team Sarasota County Rowing, and ROCCS (Rowing Organization of Citrus County Students) with seven gold medals each. The Miami Beach Rowing Club and Gainesville Area Rowing each won five gold medals.

ROCCS rowers, Mikayla Dutton and Emily Hall, teamed to win two gold medals each in the Women’s Juniors 19U 2X and 4X Events. Dutton won a third gold medal, finishing the 1X event nearly three seconds ahead of Hall. The duo also paired to win the 2X event at the FSRA Sculling Championships in April at Benderson Park.

Back in the water Sunday was the Canoe/Kayak athletes but this time in 6 mile and 12 mile Marathon Races at Fort Hamer Park on the Manatee River. Jeff Moore, of Clearwater, turned in the fastest time in the 6-mile race with a time of 1:11.20.


The fastest time in the 12-mile raced was recorded by Larry Frederick, of Dunnellon (pictured above), who maneuvered the six mile course, out and back, in 1:49.22

The Gator Swim Club ran away in the standings of the Women’s Team Rankings finishing with 1000.5 points, nearly 600 ahead of ATAC (Area Tallahassee Aquatic Club). Nine Gator Swim Club women combined to win 27 individual gold medals and nine Relay Golds. Leading the way was 14-year old Isabel Ivey, who won eight individual gold medals and a Relay Gold. 10-year old Sydney Kang won five gold medals, Georgia Bates won four and Hannah Burns won three.

ATAC led the Men’s Team Rankings compiling 691 points edging the Gator Swim Club that scored 635 points. Points are accumulated from first place through eight place finishes. The three-day event featured 120 events for swimmers beginning at the 8 and under level through 20-year old swimmers.

Winning the Mary Rose High Point Trophy for the Intermediate Division was the Miramar Mermaids coming in ahead of All Star Synchro and the Hialeah Stormettes. The Miramar team finished the day with three gold medals, a silver and three bronze.

The trio of teams were the top three in the Novice Division Saturday with Hialeah and Miramar swapping first and third spots. All Star Synchro finished second both days.

The final day of Synchronized Swimming will be held Monday at the Selby Aquatic Center with the Age Group, Junior Olympic and Masters Divisions in the pool beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Sunshine State Games action continues next weekend with the Palm Beach County Festival where eight sports will be contested. The Palm Beach County Convention Center hosts Fencing, Judo, Karate, Powerlifting, Taekwondo, Weightlifting and Wrestling. BMX Cycling will be held at Okeeheelee Park.

76-year old athlete who escaped from Cuba in a Kayak wins Sunshine State Games Gold Medals in Canoe/Kayak

The 2015 Sunshine State Games Sarasota Bradenton Festival opened Saturday with all seven sports and over 1,500 of Florida’s finest amateur athletes in action.

Athletes ranging in age from five years old to over 80 athletes competed in the 36th year of the Sunshine State Games, the longest continuously-running State Games in the U.S.

pazwebWhile the fastest sprinter of the day at the Canoe/Kayak 200, 500 and 1000 meter sprints at Nathan Benderson Park, was Henry Diaz, of Cape Coral, the most inspirational story of the day was the two gold medals won by 76-year old Rafael Paz, of Miami(pictured at left). Paz escaped from Cuba in a kayak in 1964 and was in the water for 24 hours before being picked up by a United Fruit Ship. He settled in Miami and has been paddling for recreational purposes since he retired as a construction worker.

Diaz posted the fastest overall time in all three K-1 races finishing the 200 meter sprint in 40.12, the 500 meter in 1:53 and the 1000 meter in 4:06. He recently won a silver medal at the 2015 USA Canoe/Kayak Flatwater Sprint Team Trials in Oklahoma City, April 24-25.

The 2014 Sunshine State Games Female Athlete of the Year, Graciana Wargo, of Palm Harbor, was presented with her award during competition at the Sarasota Bath and Racquet Club. Between herself, her brother, Evan and father, Gary, the family played 17 matches Saturday and Graciana teamed with her brother in Mixed B Doubles competition.


Wargo will play in the 2015 USA Racquetball Junior Olympics in Stockton, California later this month in hopes of qualifying for the Junior Racquetball World Championships in the Dominican Republic in October.

In the Men’s 60+ Singles, Wes Teel, of Mims, won the gold medal, winning all four matches of pool play within the five person division. In the Men’s A/B Singles combined event, Mauricio Muriel, of Fort Lauderdale, won three of four pool play matches while playing up from the B to A Division.

At the SSG Swimming Championships in Gainesville, the Gator Swim Club has a large lead in the women’s team standings with 556 points, more than 300 ahead of the Area Tallahassee Aquatic Club (ATAC). In the men’s team standings, ATAC leads the Gator Swim Club by 49 points with 411, as compared to 362 to the Gator Swim Club. The competition wraps up tomorrow.

Ultimate was played at the Premier Sports Complex with pool play in the Men’s Open Division and Mixed Division. Two teams in each division were undefeated in five games. In the Open Division, Force and UpRoar were 5-0, each escaping with one game during pool play with a one point win. In the Mixed Division, The Hucking Dead and G-Unit went 5-0. Hucking Dead held all five opponents to under 10 points while G-Unit had two one point wins.

In the Archery competition at Premier Sports Complex and Sarasota Archers, Jake Kaminski, of Gainesville, and Scott Barrett, of Land O’ Lakes, had the high scores in the 720 round. Kaminski, who returned from a competition in Turkey two days ago shot a 664 in the Adult Male Olympic Recurve division from 70 meters at a 122 centimeter face. Barrett had a 661 in the Adult Male Compound Release, shooting from 50 meters at an 80 centimeter face.

James Harden, of Davie, posted the high score in the Field Event with a 548 of a possible 560 score.

Michael Vaughn, of St. Petersburg, repeated as the gold medal winner in the Disc Golf Men’s Advance Division with a score of 97, shooting a front nine score of 49 and a 48 on the back nine. Chris Hermandez, of Sarasota, won the Men’s Recreational Division with a score of 86. The lowest women’s score was turned in by Meg Sapp, of Fort Myers, with a 97.

The Hialeah Stormettes won the Synchronized Swimming Mary Rose High Point Trophy for the Novice Division winning seven total medals (4 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze). All Star Synchro, of Davie, and Miramar, each won four medals each. Rowing was held at Nathan Benderson Park.

The Games continue Sunday with five sports; Archery (Sarasota Archers and Premier Sports Complex), Canoe/Kayak (Marathon Races at Fort Hamer Park), Synchronized Swimming (Intermediate and Open Divisions at Selby Aquatic Center), Ultimate (Premier Sports Complex) and Swimming in Gainesville.

Boxing Returns with 150 Athletes Competing

Over 150 boxers turned out at Fort Lauderdale’s Carter Park Gymnasium for the return of Sunshine State Games Boxing as both Men and women competed in nine divisions from Pee Wee to Elite. 2015 SSG Boxing Full Results

boxersweb2-1Athletes boxed in two rings over two days and RMBA (Región Metropolitana de Boxeo), from Puerto Rico led all clubs with six wins in four divisions and Palm Beach Boxing had five winners. BruceLaster and Zacharie Deller, of BOCA PAL had two wins each in the Novice 152 lb Division.

Watch videos of Vladimir Liceaga, of Showtime Boxing defeating Marcos Quintero, of RMBA and Eric Tudor, of North Miami, defeating Frank Diaz, of Veloz Boxing.

Sarasota-Bradenton Festival features seven sports – June 6-8

The Sunshine State Games (SSG) Sarasota-Bradenton Festival will be held Saturday, June 6 through Monday, June 8 with over 1,500 athletes competing in seven sports.

This is the second consecutive year, the Sarasota-Bradenton area has hosted a SSG Olympic-style Sports Festival. It is one of three Olympic-style Multi-Sport Festivals on the 2015 Calendar of Events.

With a complete roster of 27 sports, the SSG totals more than 10,000 athletes in action between April and November in competitions held in 10 different Florida communities.

Sarasota-Bradenton Festival Competition Schedule, Registration Update and Storylines

June 6-7, 2015 – Sarasota County Archers (Field and 3D) and Premier Sports Campus (FITA and 900)
Register online by June 4, 2015. On-site registration available. Only cash, checks and money orders will be accepted for on-site registration.

June 6-7, 2015 – Nathan Benderson Park (Sprints, Saturday, June 6) and Fort Hamer Park (Marathon, Sunday, June 7)
Register online by June 4, 2015. On-site registration is only available for Sprints.

Disc Golf
June 6, 2015 – Lakeview Park
Register online by June 4, 2015. Registration will be capped at 72 players. On-site registration will only be available if 72 players are not registered.

June 6-7, 2015 – The Sarasota YMCA – Frank G. Berlin, Sr. Branch
Register online by May 31, 2015

June 6, 2015 – Nathan Benderson Park
Register online by May 31, 2015

Synchronized Swimming
June 6-8, 2015 – Selby Aquatic Complex
Register online by May 31, 2015

June 6-7, 2015 – Premier Sports Campus
Call 1-866-354-2637 for registration availability

Youth and Adult Archers compete side by side

SSG Archery Sunshine State Games Archery features two very distinct types of archery, the 720 and 900 rounds and Field Archery and 3-D. One day, archers will stand in line in an open field and shoot at traditional round targets from marked yardages in the 720 and 900 round. The other day, archers shoot in the woods on a 3-D and Field Course with targets that include animals and traditional targets.

kellywebAmong the more than 75 archers registered is a group from the Newberry Jr. Olympic Archery Club. They include TJ Rodriguez, Sophia Tempio, Olivia Huffer, who has competed in the last four Sunshine State Games, Amanda Velez and Isaac Swinehart.

The event is a preparation for following stages of competition, according to Kimberly Oliver, the club leader and USA Archery Level 3 NTS Coach.

“The Sunshine State Games is used as a natural progression for our club archers to prepare each year for Junior Archery Nationals,” she said. “This event celebrates the athlete. Our club kids enjoy shooting with archers from around the state and have made many friends as a result. My own kids have benefited from the mentor relationships that have evolved from competing alongside adult archers from Florida. These relationships have grown to be sources of inspiration, encouragement and wisdom for them.”

Oliver’s son and daughter competed in the 2014 Games but will miss this year’s tournament, since her son, Ryan, is competing for Team USA at the World Archery Youth Championships.

Family time at Sunshine State Games Racquetball

Competing at the Sarasota YMCA will be the Wargo’s of Clearwater. Dad Gary, son Evan and daughter Graciana, don’t limit their family fun to the Sunshine State Games.

After Graciana Wargo competed in both the Women’s C Singles and the Mixed B Doubles racquetball divisions, winning Gold Medals in both, she traveled to the USA Racquetball Junior Olympics in Colorado, where she won two medals, including the Gold Medal National Championship in the Girls Age 12 & Under Doubles. That win earned a roster spot on Team USA where the team competed in the Junior Racquetball World Championships in Cali, Colombia, against 21 other countries, where Team USA brought home a Third Place Team Bronze Medal in October 2014. She has competed and traveled in years past as part of Team USA in Bolivia and the Dominican Republic.

In November 2012, Sports Illustrated Kids honored Graciana, as one of four youth athletes in the country chosen a “Future Stars: SportsKids of the Month.” Besides racquetball accomplishments, this honor also evaluated high-level academic achievements and meaningful volunteer community service efforts.

Synchronized Swimming is only three day sport of Sarasota-Bradenton Festival
Sunshine State Games Synchronized Swimming is contested over three days due to the three skill levels involved. The levels begin with the Novice Group (Saturday, 6/6), advance to Intermediate (Sunday, 6/7) and finish with the polished veterans, the Junior Olympic, Age Group and Open levels (Sunday, June 8).

coralyteswebWith over 230 synchronized swimmers currently registered from 48 Florida cities, the athletes range from five year olds, Eleanor Phillips, of Orlando and Lillian Stevens, of Tampa to over the age of 50 athletes like Audrey Frey, of Lakeland.

The athletes of many different ages and skill levels, from various parts of Florida know the importance of securing all of the necessary accessories. There’s the team’s matching bathing suit, glittery makeup and eyeliner and nose plug, and finally, the Knox Gelatin for the hair sculpted into the hair of all athletes at the Selby Aquatic Center.

10 Years of SSG Ultimate

The 2015 Games celebrates the 10th Anniversary of Ultimate in the Sunshine State Games since its debut in 2006 at the Games held in Miami Dade County. The event annually draws teams from all over the state and in the previous nine years, the Gainesville area has taken five title and Jacksonville has taken four.

ultimate1webThe 2014 Men’s Open Champions, Wooly Mammoth, of Gainesville, return to defend their title, while 12 teams will compete in the Coed Division.

Besides the team bragging rights earned on the field through pool and bracket play, Ultimate players gather at the conclusion of the tournament for the “Ultimate Layout,” competition. This event allows individuals to show off their athleticism and creativity in catching a thrown disc. Players have literally jumped through hoops, over other individuals and even through open car doors to catch discs on a tarp covered with water and dish soap, giving them a good slide after making the catch.

Floridians enjoy the benefits of World Class Rowing in their home state

Recently named the “Sports Venue of the Year,” by the Florida Sports Foundation, Nathan Benderson Park hosts over 100 rowing athletes from 20 different clubs on Saturday, June 6.

Among the events include 1X, 2X, 4X and 8X crews testing their abilities at the host venue for the 2017 World Rowing Championships.

In 2014, Benderson Park was the site for nearly 50 rowing events hosting 50,000 athletes and spectators (over 25,000 from out of state) for an economic impact of over $12 million in economic impact to the Sarasota County region.

The most significant events secured for the coming years at Benderson Park include the 2015 US Rowing Youth National Championships, 2017 World Rowing Championships and the 2018 NCAA DI, II and III Rowing National Championships.

SSG features eight sports at Palm Beach County Festival

It’s a safe bet on Saturday, June 13, the Palm Beach County Convention Center will be the center of the State of Florida’s amateur sports universe as over 3,000 athletes, coaches and attendees will be a part of seven Sunshine State Games sports at the Palm Beach County Festival.

The fashion of the day will be martial arts gees, fencing masks and weightlifting and wrestling singlets for those competing in Fencing, Judo, Karate, Powerlifiting, Taekwondo, Weightlifting and Wrestling.


No other venue among those on the 2015 Sunshine State Games calendar of events will host as many sports, with as many athletes as the Palm Beach County Convention Center on Saturday, June 13.

“Through our partnership with the Palm Beach County Sports Commission, we have the opportunity to transform one of the County’s finest facilities into an outstanding venue for a multitude of sports,” said Stephen Rodriguez, Sr. Vice President of the Florida Sports Foundation. “As always, the focus of the Sunshine State Games is to provide athletes with a first-class stage on which to perform. For 2015-2016, that stage is the Palm Beach County Convention Center.”

Among the 2014 Gold Medal winners from Palm Beach County who have registered to compete in their own backyard this year are fencer Olivia Varughese, of Delray Beach; Loreen Tilley, of Jupiter, in Judo; Powerlifters Gabriel Vega-Lara, of Boca Raton; Vanessa Watt, of Okeechobee and Aidan Dietrick, of Wellington, who will compete in Taekwondo.


Besides the eight sports at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, Okeeheelee Park will host BMX Cycling on Saturday, June 13.

Palm Beach County Festival Schedule of Events

BMX Cycling
Saturday, June 13 – Okeeheelee Park

Saturday, June 13 & Sunday, June 14 – Palm Beach County Convention Center

Saturday, June 13 – Palm Beach County Convention Center

Saturday, June 13 – Palm Beach County Convention Center

Saturday, June 13 & Sunday, June 14 – Palm Beach County Convention Center

Saturday, June 13 & Sunday, June 14 – Palm Beach County Convention Center

Saturday, June 13 – Palm Beach County Convention Center

Saturday, June 13 & Sunday, June 14 – Palm Beach County Convention Center

The 2015 Palm Beach County Festival marks the third time the Sunshine State Games has paid a visit to Palm Beach County for an Olympic-Style Sports Festival. The Games were previously held in Palm Beach County in 1991 and 2002.

SSG takes a week off – Returns with Boxing May 30-31

It’s an open week, during this high season of May and June, with no events being held this weekend.

The action returns May 30-31 when Boxing climbs in the ring at Carter Park Gymnasium in Fort Lauderdale. Every weekend in June features a multi-sport Festival or stand-alone Championship.

Boxing was a staple of the beginning with the inaugural Sunshine State Games in 1980 through 2008 and returns in 2015 under the direction of the Miami Heart and Soul Boxing Program and Francisco (Angel) Nazario (pictured below). Through the years, Sunshine State Games Boxing has produced some notable names including Roy Jones, Jr., Antonio Tarver, Andre Berto, Jeff Lacy and Nazario himself, who wants to bring the tradition back to the State of Florida.


“I was a champion in the 139 pound division back in the early 90s,” said Nazario. “When you win in the Sunshine State Games, it’s a bragging right. You’re one of the best in the state. It gives kids a lot of motivation. That’s why it is important to me to bring it back.”

Nazario has been giving at-risk youth a lot of motivation through his Heart and Soul Boxing Club since 2010. Prior to the Heart and Soul Club in Miami, he spearheaded a USA Boxing program, “Gloves not Guns,” for at-risk youth. He has also helped youth, “stay out of trouble,” through boxing while living in Ocala, Jacksonville, Port St. Lucie and Miami.

He has served as a referee, coach and judge in amateur boxing competitions around the state and is now the organizer of the Sunshine State Games Boxing Championships.

The 2015 SSG Boxing Championships has divisions and age groups for everyone, male and female, youth and adults.


“We are excited to bring Boxing back to the Games and offering competitive opportunities to more Floridians,” said Stephen Rodriguez, Florida Sports Foundation Sr. Vice President.

The Elite Division, for ages between 19 and 40, will box without headgear since Olympic boxing rules have changed and the 2016 Olympic Games will be contested without headgear. Boxers, age 18 and under, will compete with headgear.

“This rule is going to make amateur boxing more interesting than professional boxing,” said Nazario. “These boxers have trained for three or four months for their six minutes in the ring. They’re going to see if they’ve got what it takes to be a pro boxer and give it their all.”

Registration is open through Thursday, May 28 by visiting On-site registration is available on Friday, May 29 from 5:00-8:00 p.m. at Carter Park Gymnasium.

Before taking the week off, the Sunshine State Games was on display in Broward County at the Spring Festival with over 3,700 amateur athletes in action, competing in Figure Skating, Lacrosse and Rugby. The Spring Festival was the first of three multi-sport Festivals of the 2015 Sunshine State Games.

The Sarasota-Bradenton Festival will be held June 6-8 with seven sports (Archery, Canoe/Kayak, Disc Golf, Racquetball, Rowing, Synchronized Swimming and Ultimate). The online registration deadline for Synchronized Swimming has been extended until Monday, May 25 and registration for the other six sports continues. Visit for more information about the Sarasota-Bradenton Festival and others.

The Palm Beach County Festival features eight sports in action, June 13-14. The Palm Beach County Convention Center will host seven of the eight sports (Fencing, Judo, Karate, Powerlifting, Taekwondo, Weightlifting and Wrestling) while Okeeheelee Park hosts BMX Cycling.

dodsonstarkaward2015One of the annual highlights of the Sunshine State Games Figure Skating event is the presentation of the Dorothy Dodson Award for Figure Skating Excellence. The 2015 winner was Paxton James, of Estero (pictured on left in photo), for her gold medal winning performances in the Intermediate Ladies Short Program and Silver medal in the Intermediate Ladies Free Skate event. Her combined score of 95.47 (33.03 Short Program/62.44 Free Skate) bested Erin Coleman, of Bonita Springs by five points.

Alexa Binder, of Weston (pictured on right in photo), won the first annual Betty Stark Award, presented to the top skater in the Juvenile Girls Free Skate Event. She advanced out of three groups of preliminary competition to the Championship where she topped 12 other skaters with a score of 51.37, more than seven points ahead of the second place finisher.

Over 130 Lacrosse teams were in action at Pine Trails Park and North Broward Prep in 14 Boy’s and Girl’s Divisions ranging from 9 and Under through High School.

Congratulations to the 2015 SSG Spring Festival Lacrosse Age Group Champions

Girls Middle School A – Mad Skillz Epic, Weston
Girls Middle School B – Storm Lacrosse Red, Weston
Girls High School A – Florida Select
Girls High School B – Mad Swash Ultimate, Boca Raton

Boys Class of 2024 – Stealth LC, Parkland
Boys Class of 2022 – Palm Beach Revolution 2022
Boys Class of 2022B – Palm Beach Revolution U11 Select
Boys Class of 2021 – CP 22 2021, Boca Raton
Boys Class of 2020A – Premier Players, Delray Beach
Boys Class of 2020B – Viera Venom
Boys Class of 2019 – Palm Beach Revolution 2019
Boys High School A – Xtreme, Fort Lauderdale
Boys High School B – South Florida Swordfish

On the Rugby Fields of Brian Piccolo Park, the Florida International University team won the Men’s Open Division, defeating Fort Lauderdale, 33-5, in the Championship Game. The Punishers, of West Palm Beach, won the Boy’s High School Division, defeating the Weston Green team and Key West was the Men’s Social Division champions.

Thunder Struck Basketball is a SSG Gold Medalist

The 9th Grade Boys Champions, Thunder Struck, are a repeat winner from the 2014 Games when they won the 8th Grade Championship. The 15 and under team won its four games by an average margin of 25 points and won the championship game 97-76 over Florida Elite Gainesville. The 97 points was a tournament high score.

Thunder Struck (pictured below) consists of the following players; Detorian Adams, East Side High School, Gainesville, Kofi Asare, East Side High School, Gainesville, Nick Baskin, St. Francis Catholic High School, Gainesville, Chris Cummings, P.K. Yonge High School, Gainesville, Darius Day, Williston High School, Brendan Fischer, Buchholz High School, Gainesville, Maurice Goolsby, Dunellon Middle School, BJ Greenlee, The Rock School, Gainesville, Jakaris Hawkins, Columbia High School, Lake City, Brian Norris, Chiefland High School, Cori Patterson, Leesburg High School, Dallas Tealer, Gainesville High School, Demari Turner, Gainesville High School and Ike Walker – East Side High School, Gainesville


Dallas Tealer was named the Age Group MVP, and provided outstanding defense throughout the tournament, according to Matt Brush, one of the team coaches. “He usually get the assignment of guarding the opponent’s top scorer,” said Brush. It was the eighth Tournament Championship of 2015 and the Thunder Struck 9th Graders are undefeated in 35 games this year.

Congratulations to the following Age Group Champions

6th/7th Grade Girls – Florida Suns, Gainesville
4th Grade Boys – Gainesville Basketball Club (GBC)
7th Grade Boys – North Point Youth, Palataka
8th Grade Boys, Division 1 – Thunder Struck, Gainesville
8th Grade Boys, Division 2 – Gainesville Stampede
9th Grade Boys – Thunder Struck, Gainesville
10th Grade Boys – North Florida Elite, Palatka
1th Grade Boys – Golden Isles Basketball (GIBA)

The 8th Grade Thunder Struck team scored an upset defeating the Gainesville Basketball Club in the Championship Game to finish with a 5-0 record for the weekend. The GBC team was the 2014 USSSA State Champions.

The 10th Grade Championship Game provided the closest finish with the North Florida Elite, of Palatka, scoring a 58-57 win over the P Town Ballers on a basket by Age Group MVP, Juwan Coleman, with :11 remaining. The game featured seven lead changes in the final two minutes.

The 2015 Sunshine State Games Basketball Championships, sponsored by the FSF and the Gainesville Sports Commission, was played in Alachua County, May 9-10, 2015.

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