Sunshine State Games calendar closes month of June with Badminton in Miami-Dade County
Time for a look ahead and a glance behind as the 2018 Sunshine State Games finish up the month of June with an event for the fifth consecutive weekend.
The look ahead sees the Sunshine State Games Badminton Championships beginning Saturday, June 30 and concluding on Sunday, July 1 at Shula’s Athletic Club in Miami Lakes. Shuttlecocks start flying through the air at 9:00 a.m. on both days.
According to SSG Badminton Sport Director Dave Zarco, approximately 65 players will be on the courts playing in 74 singles and doubles events. As one of the most internationally-represented sports of the Games, Zarco confirmed athletes from a variety of heritages will be competing. Among the countries represented are Bangladesh, China, Cuba, Great Britian, India, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Pakistan, Peru, Phillipines, Scotland, Spain, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Vietnam.
The 2018 SSG Badminton Championships will also serve as a qualifier for the 2019 National Senior Games for the athletes in action, age 50 and over.
Last weekend (June 22-24), 55 Water Polo teams gathered in Broward County for the 25th Annual SSG Water Polo Championships at Coral Springs Aquatic Complex and the Pompano Beach Aquatic Complex.
The Miami Riptides Water Polo was the big winner at the 2018 Sunshine State Games Water Polo Championships bringing home five team gold medals, including the ninth consecutive championship in the Women’s Open division and 10th in 12 years.
Besides the Women’s Open Championship, Riptides teams also won the 14 and Under Coed, 16 and Under Girl’s (Florida), 18 and Under Boys, and Men’s Open Divisions.
The 16 and Under Boy’s and 18 and Under Girl’s teams won silver medals. Combined, the seven Riptides teams played 30 games at the 25th Anniversary Sunshine State Games Water Polo Championships and won 26.
Riptides players join teams at a young age and advance through the age divisions making Water Polo a lifelong sport.
“The rosters of the men’s and women’s open teams are full of players who started in the 12 and under division and are still playing and even coaching,” said Riptides head coach Carroll Vaughan.
Evidence of that could be seen on Championship Sunday as Chelsea Johnson received a gold medal with the Women’s Open team (pictured below) early in the afternoon and was on the pool deck leading the Girl’s 18 and Under team during their championship game later in the afternoon.
Johnson, is a recent graduate and was a member of Princeton University Water Polo team, who began playing on Riptides teams at an early age along with her sister, Ashleigh, a gold medalist on the USA Women’s team at the 2016 Olympic Games. Ashleigh returned to play with the Riptides Women’s Open team last summer.
Chelsea and Ashleigh also have three brothers who have played on Riptides teams.
“Playing at the Sunshine State Games is like a family reunion for a lot of the open division teams,” said Sami Caparelli, who started playing with the Riptides in eighth grade and attended Coral Reef High School and Hartwick College (N.Y.) on a Water Polo scholarship. “Word gets out and players start coming out of the woodworks.”
After earning a master’s degree in Zoology in England, Caparelli has returned to South Florida and now works at Zoo Miami.
Following the trophy and medals presentation at the Coral Springs Aquatic Center Sunday afternoon for the Wonen’s Open team, Vaughan recognized team member CC Leonard as the team MVP for her play of the weekend. Leonard has been playing for Riptides teams for 20 years while attending South Plantation High School and Iona College (N.Y.).
She was the 2012 Iona Gaels team captain, played in two NCAA Division I Championships, and was a two-time All-American. Leonard will spend the rest of 2018 playing for a Spanish professional league team in Catalunya.
“I’m 28,” she said. “I guess I’m one of the elder statesmen on the team.”
One of the newer members of the Women’s Open team is Nicole Aulicino, a recent graduate and captain of the Gulliver Prep High School team.
Vaughan noted the variety of ages of the players allows the older players to serve as mentors for the younger players.
“We bring players from the 16 and 18 under teams up to the Open Division and it really helps them with their game,” she said.
The competition at all levels of play for the Riptides Water Polo teams annually results in a haul of Sunshine State Games medals. It’s likely some players on the Women’s Open team know nothing but winning gold medals over the last nine years.
2018 SSG Water Polo Gold-Medal Winning Teams
10U Coed – Hialeah Storm
12U Coed – South Florida Water Polo
14U Coed – Riptides
16U Girls – Trinidad and Tobago National Team (International); Riptides (Florida)
16U Boys – South Florida Water Polo
18U Girls – Hialeah Storm
18U Boys – Riptides
Women’s Open – Riptides (9th Consecutive Women’s Open Gold Medal)
Men’s Open – Riptides
The 55 teams combined to play 114 games beginning Friday at 9:30 a.m. and concluding at 6:00 p.m. Sunday, June 24 in three pools at the Coral Springs Aquatic Center and one at the Pompano Beach Aquatic Center.
Since February, over 7,500 of Florida’s finest amateur athletes have competed in 19 Sunshine State Games sports, held in 10 different Florida communities.
CLICK HERE to see a photo gallery from the 2018 SSG Water Polo Championships at the Coral Springs Aquatic Center and Pompano Beach Aquatic Center.
The Sunshine State Games are presented annually by the Florida Sports Foundation (FSF), the state’s lead sports promotion and development organization, and a division of Enterprise Florida, Inc. The events of this weekend are being held in conjunction with Broward Sports, the Gainesville Sports Commission, and Visit Pasco.
The Sunshine State Games, an annual amateur sports tradition in Florida, is part of the state’s $57.4 billion sports industry that accounts for 580,000 jobs statewide.