Rowing, paddling, and Olympic weightlifting kick off June’s Sunshine State Games this weekend
Sunshine State Games athletes will be gliding across the water at Nathan Benderson Park in rowing and paddling events and lifting heavy amounts of weight at the Olympic weightlifting competition at the Bradenton Area Convention Center.
This is the second weekend of multi-sport 2018 Sunshine State Games competitions going on through the months of May and June. The weekend of May 18-20, more than 2,500 of Florida’s Finest Amateur Athletes competed in basketball in Alachua County, figure skating in Pasco County, and lacrosse in Broward County. Over 300 athletes will step into boats and up to the weight platform in Sarasota and Manatee Counties this weekend.
Nathan Benderson Park hosts 27 Florida rowing clubs and members of the Bay Area Rowing Club of Houston, Texas in boats containing one a single rower to as many as eight. A total of 156 athletes will compete in 59 events beginning at 9:00 a.m.
The Sarasota Crew will have 46 athletes competing on Saturday. Since its inception in 2002, the Sarasota Crew has grown to become one of the largest clubs in the United States. The Crew has won the Florida State Championship each year since 2011 and the Southeast Regional Championship from 2012-18. Within the last five years, the Sarasota Crew has sent almost 70 athletes to participate on the US Rowing Junior National Team. In the summer of 2017, four Sarasota Crew youth rowers represented the U.S. at the World Rowing Championships in Lithuania and won the gold medal in the 1X and a silver in the eight-plus races.
On the other end of the park, Sunshine State Games paddling events will be running sprints with distances of 200, 500 and 1,000 meters. Marathon races of six and 12 miles will be held at Fort Hamer Park in Parrish.
Registered to race on Saturday are paddlers on both ends of the age groups. Tucker Goetz, a 16-year-old from Cape Coral is one of 15 members of the South Florida Canoe/Kayak Club competing. He is also a member of the American Canoe Association National Team Training Squad as part of its Olympic Development Program. He is coached by the 2002 Sunshine State Games Athlete of the Year Larry Parzynski and will attend a National Team Training Camp in Oklahoma City later this summer, according to Sunshine State Games Paddling Sprints Director, Melinda Mack.
Also climbing into the boat at Nathan Benderson Park is 62-year old Lloyd Reeves, from Crescent City, who became the first Floridian to win the BIG Little River Paddle Race at Reed Bingham State Park in Hahira, Georgia, with a record time in April. Reeves also won multiple medals at the ACA National Championship last summer in Clermont.
Besides serving as the sport director for the canoe/kayak Marathon races, John Edwards, of St. Petersburg, is one of the top marathon racers in the state of Florida. Edwards has traveled the globe to compete in races and has been a part of several open water team endurances races in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.
Among the 70 Olympic weightlifters on the platform Saturday at the Bradenton Area Convention Center are three veteran Sunshine State Games adult weightlifters and their children. Cory Aun, of St. Cloud, and his 12-year old daughter, Ashley, will be competing together, along with Gainesville’s Chris Follenius, the 2011 Sunshine State Games Athlete of the Year (pictured below), and his son, 17-year old, Braden. Finally, Thomas Bennett, now the Weightlifting Coach at Spruce Creek High School, in Port Orange, will be participating with his daughter, Will.
Aun has been competing in the Sunshine State Games with his twin brother, Jason, since 1998. When not competing, he assists in many different areas of the annual SSG meet. Follenius competes in USA Weightlifting Masters events and has recorded record-setting performances over the years in national competitions.
The annual highlight of the Sunshine State Games Olympic weightlifting event is the presentation of The Robert Murphy Spirit Award, named after the late SSG weightlifter. It is awarded to an athlete who best personifies the charisma, fight and never say die attitude of Murphy. The 2017 winner was Joe Fisher from Team Florida Gulf Coast Jacksonville who had a combined lift of 260kg (573 lbs). A Best Male and Female Lifter Award are also presented at the end of the competition.
Ultimate was originally scheduled to compete during the Sarasota/Manatee County Festival but will be contested as part of the 2018 SSG International Beach Games, to be held at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort, on Clearwater Beach, September 28-30.
Schedule of Events for the 2018 SSG Sarasota/Manatee County Festival
Saturday, June 2
8:00 a.m. Canoe/Kayak Sprints Competition, Nathan Benderson Park, Sarasota
9:00 a.m. Rowing Competition, Nathan Benderson Park, Sarasota
9:00 a.m. Olympic Weightlifting Competition, Bradenton Area Convention Center
9:30 a.m. Canoe/Kayak Marathon Competition, Fort Hamer Park, Parrish
Upcoming Sunshine State Games Events during the Month of June
For competition and registration information visit www.sunshinestategames.com
June 8-10, 2018
Sunshine State Games – Alachua County Festival
Alachua County, Florida
Sports Offered: Archery, Swimming
Sunshine State Games Synchronized Swimming Championships
Gandy Pool, Lakeland, Florida
June 16-17, 2018
Sunshine State Games Summer Games
Charlotte County, Florida
Sports offered: Baton Twirling, Judo, Karate, Taekwondo and Track & Field
Sunshine State Games Fencing Championships
The Long Center, Clearwater, Florida
Sunshine State Games Powerlifting Championships
Highland Recreation Center, Largo, Florida
Sunshine State Games Table Tennis Championships
Serves as 2018 Florida Senior Games Qualifier for age 50 and over athletes
Simpson Recreation Center, Lakeland, Florida
June 22-24, 2018
Sunshine State Games Water Polo Championships
Coral Springs and Pompano Beach, Florida
June 30-July 1, 2018
Sunshine State Games Badminton Championships
Shula’s Athletic Club, Miami Lakes, Florida
The 39th Annual Sunshine State Games, the State of Florida’s only Olympic-style Sports Festival, is 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 in conjunction with the Bradenton Area Sports Commission and Visit Sarasota.
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.