SARASOTA, Fla. – The 2019 Sunshine State Games kicked off the summer months of competition with five marquee events on Saturday, June 1. In total, 370 athletes from throughout Florida ascended on the cities of Parrish, Sarasota, and West Palm Beach to compete in rowing, kayaking, canoeing, weightlifting, and wrestling.
Sarasota hosted three sports, Olympic Weighting, Rowing, and Canoe/Kayak Sprints, while the City of Parrish was home to the Canoe/Kayak Marathon course at Fort Hamer Park.
The rowing regattas glided through the waters of Nathan Benderson Park, attracting 177 athletes across 200+ boats in 62 events.
Just down the road at Robarts Arena, 105 competitors tested feats of strength at the SSG Olympic Weightlifting championships. Competing in two disciplines, Snatch and Clean & Jerk, each lifter’s total combined score tallied to crown the overall champion in each division and weight class.
Two noteworthy storylines developed during the competition as a new award, honoring the late Chris Pennington, was given out for the first time in 2019 to the coach that exemplified the highest level of professionalism, coaching motivation, and spirit of sport. Pennington, who passed away in 2018, coached Team Florida’s Weightlifting competitors since 1999 and had a contingent of former and current lifters on hand for the occasion. The 2019 recipient of the award was Orlando’s Hannah Crowe, a former athlete of Chris Pennington.
Chris’s brother Aaron came out of competitive retirement to participate in the event honoring his brother. “Experiencing today’s competition that honored Chris was deeply moving,” said Pennington. “It was a true pleasure to see him honored in this way. I could think of a better recipient that personified Chris’s commitment, attitude, and joy for this sport than Hannah.”
The famous phase “Release the Kraken” was heard echoing throughout Robarts Arena on Saturday as the family of Jacksonville resident Dawn Bryant entered the building with cheers of anticipation as their wife, mom, grandmother, and mother-in-law combination was competing in her first ever Olympic Weightlifting competition. A current member of Team Florida Northeast and CrossFit Salt de Terre, Bryant, age 54, finished second in the Masters 64kg division, totaling a combined 80kg lift with a successful attempt at 34kg in the snatch and a 46kg clean & jerk. Draped in “Team Kraken” custom-made shirts, Bryant’s three kids, their spouses, one grandson, and husband, Mike, cheered loudly each lift for Dawn. “My entire family has been participating in CrossFit for three years now, and it has become our bonding moment,” said Bryant. “My husband, who had a liver transplant in recent years, has continued to be my rock and support. This weekend was an excellent opportunity for us to bond as a family and for me to gain confidence that I can still compete and remain active.”
Traveling from the West Coast to the East Coast, spectators witnessed 188 of the Sunshine State’s best wrestlers dual it out in West Palm Beach at the Keiser University – Flagship Campus Gymnasium. After a two-year break in action, SSG Wrestling, partnering with the Police Athletic League (PAL) of West Palm Beach, had 77 individual weight class champions crowned from 45-285 pounds and even in the heavyweight division, focusing on three styles of wrestling: Folkstyle, Freestyle, and Greco-Roman.
About the Sunshine State Games
The 40th 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 Foundation works in conjunction with a variety of local sports industry partners to present the different competitions. 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.