PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – Since 2000, over 170,000 athletes have participated in the Sunshine State Games (SSG), the State of Florida’s only Olympic-style Sports Festival.
At the 2018 SSG Track and Field Championships, in Port Charlotte, Dr. Brian Hickey, a professor in the Florida A&M Department of Health and Physical Education, joined an elite group of amateur athletes when he received his 2017 Sunshine State Games Male Athlete of the Year Award.
In the third weekend of SSG events during the month of June, 1,200 of Florida’s finest amateur athletes competed in six sports in three Florida communities. The Games continue over the next two weekends of June with the Water Polo Championships in Broward County on June 22-24 and the Badminton Championships in Miami-Dade County on June 30-July 1.
Hickey became the 39th individual to win the award, along with a basketball team and a family of judo athletes, in the 21st century (2000-18), for his performance at the 2017 Games and over the last 17 years. Angelica Ramirez, an archer from Melbourne, received the 2017 Female Athlete of the Year at the Easton Newberry Archery Complex on Sunday, June 10.
The Florida A&M professor has won gold medals dating back to 2002, in the 400, 800, 1500 and 3000 meter races, winning 42 gold medals and a silver during this streak of SSG performances. He began his streak running in the 30+ Masters age group, and in 2018, he won gold medals in the 50+ age group winning the 800, 1500 and 3000 meter gold medals.
Hickey’s wife, Rachel Austin-Hickey, also won a gold medal in the 800 meter run in the 40-44 age group and earned silver medals in the 400 meter run and 200 meter dash.
Besides Hickey’s Athlete of the Year presentation the SSG Track and Field Championships featured 534 athletes representing 44 Florida track and field clubs.
Baron Barber, a member of the Fast Lane Track Club of West Palm Beach, was Mr. Everything at the Sunshine State Games Track and Field Championships. Barber, who is also a coach for the Fast Lane Team, registered for 15 events in the Masters and Open Meet in the 19-29 age group, seven running, seven field events, and a race walk event.
Barber, who was a member of the Palm Beach Lakes High School team and ran on the collegiate level at Eastern New Mexico University, managed to compete in 12 of the 15 events winning 10 gold medals and two silver medals. He ran in the preliminaries of the 100 meter dash but not the finals and missed out on the triple jump and 1500 meter race walk.
One of Barber’s athletes, Dondre Swint, repeated as the 100 and 200 meter gold medalist in the 17-18 year old age group. He ran an 11.15 in the 100 and 21.82 in the 200 meter dash, the fastest time of all youth age groups. In the 100 meter dash, Swint crossed the finish line .003 and .005 ahead of Fast Lane teammates, Derrick Cruickshank, Jr. and Keshawn Baptiste.
The fastest time in the 100 meter dash was recorded on Sunday by Adam Harris, with a time of 10.33. Harris is an American sprinter who represented Guyana in the 2008 Olympic Games and ran in the 200 meter dash. A native of Wheaton, Illinois, Harris was a member of the University of Michigan track and field team and was the 2007 Big Ten Track Athlete of the Year.
The fastest women’s sprint times were turned in by Isatta Kenneh, who ran an 11.83 in the 100 meter dash and a 24.43 in the 200 of the Women’s Open 19-29 age group. Kenneh, who ran on the collegiate level for Temple University from 2009-13, also won a silver medal in the long jump with a leap of 4.80 meters (15 feet, eight inches).
Malik Golden, competing in the 17-18 year old age group for the St. Pete Nitro team, set a personal best in the shot put with a heave of 45 feet, 6.5 inches. It was the longest shot put of any athlete in the Games, Youth and Open and Masters, and topped his closest age group competitor by more than 10 feet. Golden also had a personal best javelin throw of 95 feet, 5 inches, to win a silver medal.
At the SSG Table Tennis Championships at Simpson Park Recreation Center in Lakeland, 15-year old Rami Salem won three gold medals in three 2000 level and above divisions. Salem won the Under 2300, 2100, and 2000 level gold medals. In winning the Under 2100 Division gold medal, Salem advanced out of a field of 25 players to defeat 39-year old Felipe Ruiz, of Clearwater.
The 2018 Games were Salem’s fourth SSG appearance dating back to 2015 when he won a bronze medal in the Under 1325 Division at age 11. He also won a silver medal in the 1875 Division and a bronze in the Under 2300 Division in 2016.
The 2018 SSG Table Tennis Championships also served as a qualifier for the 2018 Florida Senior Games and athletes from six age groups, from 50-54 to 75-79, qualified to compete in Clearwater on Monday, December 3 and Tuesday, December 4 at the Long Center.
SSG powerlifters combined to squat, bench press and deadlift a total of 26,389 pounds at the Highland Recreation Center in Largo. For their efforts, Armando Perez, of Miami, and Jacki Mojica, of Brandon, earned the annual Best Male and Female Awards.
The 175-pound Perez combined to lift over 1,460. He bench pressed nearly twice his weight at 330 pounds, had a squat of 507 pounds, and deadlifted 622 pounds. Weighing in at 108 pounds, the smallest of female competitors, Mojica combined to lift 666 pounds (226 squat, 143 bench press, 297 deadlift). It was the third highest total of all women powerlifters.
Also among the SSG Powerlifters was 17-year old Derek Akey, the Gainesville Sun’s 2018 Boy’s Track Athlete of the Year. Akey returned to the Games to record a deadlift of 622 pounds a 66 pound increase since he made his debut last September at the SSG International Beach Games, where he had a deadlift of 556 pounds.
Akey is also at discus thrower for Buchholz High School and came in second at the 2018 FHSAA State Championships. He has committed to compete in track and field at the University of Oregon and was called “the strongest 17-year old in the country,” in a WCJB-Gainesville feature honoring local athletes.
Also in Pinellas County, 200 fencers gathered at the Long Center for two days of bouts. Jake and Bryce Thayer, brothers from Port Charlotte, combined to win seven medals in the three events contested – Foil, Epee and Saber.
13-year old Bryce, won gold and silver medals in events of the Foil and Epee competition. 18-year old Jake won a gold medal in the Senior Men’s Saber event and won bronze medals in Men’s Foil and Men’s Epee events.
Bryce was the recipient of the USA Fencing Spirit of Sport Recognition Program, recognizing members of the fencing community who have exemplified outstanding dedication to the sport and are an inspiration to others. Recipients are chose based on commitment and dedication to the sport as well as his or her club, respect, teamwork, inclusion, passion, sportsmanship and character.
The winner of the annual SSG Fencing Team Trophy was won by the Stoccata Fencing Academy & Club, of Longwood, for the second consecutive year. The Stoccata team combined to win 31 medals; five gold, eight silver and 18 bronze. The five gold medal winners were Lillia Norman, Nestor Grajales (foil events), Frances Baksa (epee event) and Olivia Brown, Emily Grajales (saber events).
Maxwell and Jessica Alaynick carried on a family tradition of winning SSG Judo Gold Medals at Charlotte High School with Jessica taking the gold in the 15-16 Year Old Advanced Division and Maxwell winning in the 17-29 Year old Advanced Division.
The Alaynick’s competition in the Sunshine State Games goes back to 2006 when Maxwell competed in the 6 Year Old Age Group with his brothers Christopher and Alexander. Jessica began competing in the Games in 2009, also in the 6 Year Old Age Group.
Along the way, even the Alaynick parents, Meredith and Charles, have competed together in the Katame no Kata event.
CLICK HERE for complete results of the 2018 Sunshine State Games, which to date has consisted of action in 17 sports that began in February.