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September 22, 2014

State Games Athletes of the Year Announced

The Nebraska Sports Council has announced the 2014 Cornhusker State Games Athletes of the Year, including open-water swimmer Sharessa Gutierrez, 33 of Omaha; trap-shooter Aaron Lafler, 19, of Lincoln; multi-sport athlete Dave Waggoner, 67 of Kearney and wrestler Chance Fry, 14, of Lincoln.

The four honorees were chosen as the best among 13,460 competitors in the 30th annual Cornhusker State Games, held July 18-27 in Lincoln, Omaha and surrounding communities. Criteria for the awards includes: CSG achievements, attitude/sportsmanship, other achievements and special circumstances. Athlete of the Year Awards, which are sponsored by Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital, will be presented at the Council’s awards banquet on Oct. 30 at the Del Ray Ballroom in Lincoln.

Waggoner teamed up with his 12-year old granddaughter Ashley to win the gold in the family rec doubles division of CSG Badminton. He also earned a silver in rec men’s doubles and a bronze in rec mixed doubles. The 67 year-old learned of his award while in Rapid City competing in three sports—badminton, pickleball and pocket billiards—in the South Dakota State Senior Games. He also picked up three medals there.

“That’s a heck of an honor,” said Waggoner, who, according to his nominator, CSG Badmintor Director Bob Ericson, made modifications to his Kearney plumbing shop a few years ago to make space for a badminton court so he and friends could play during winter months.

Gutierrez won three gold medals in the CSG Open-Water Swimming competition and was first overall in both the 3K and 5K races. Open-Water Swimming Director Sue Nutty, who nominated Gutierrez, said Gutierrez had competed the past 10 years in the CSG pool swimming events and moving to longer distances and swimming in open water is not always an easy transition. She called Gutierrez’ swimming “inspiring to watch.”

Lafler started shooting trap as a 4th grader and began competing in the Cornhusker State Games as a 7th grader. Now 19, he has won 19 CSG medals including two more in the adult competition in 2014. Lafler’s trapshooting accolades include a 2011 individual state championship in the 16-yard event and leading his squad to the 2013 high overall team championship. According to his nominator, Trapshooting Director Dave Tunink, Lafler is well known in the shooting community for being humble and helping younger shooters.

Fry racked up six wrestling gold medals and four iron man awards, bringing his four-year CSG medal count to 20, which could be as high as 26 had he not broken his collarbone and missed the Games in 2013. He was the only wrestler in 2014 to win gold in all six disciplines, including advantage, freestyle, takedown, scholastic, greco and beach. CSG Wrestling Director Craig Hellwege praised Fry’s character, saying he is “always humble and well-liked among the wrestlers even though he stands out as a tough and skilled competitor.”

CSG Male (Lafler), Female (Gutierrez) and Youth (Fry) Athletes of the Year have been nominated for national awards issued by the National Congress of State Games at its annual symposium, set to take place Oct. 13-15 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The E. Lee Todd Senior Athlete of the Year Award is unique to Nebraska. Local awards are determined by a selection committee of sports officials and journalists.

The Nebraska Sports Council, which conducts the Cornhusker State Games and next year’s version, the State Games of America, is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization. Platinum partners include CHI St. Elizabeth, BlueCross & BlueShield of Nebraska and Nebraska Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine. Learn more at

September 22, 2014 - The Nebraska Sports Council has announced the 2014 Cornhusker State Games Athletes of the Year, including open-water swimmer Sharessa Gutierrez, 33 of Omaha; trap-shooter Aaron Lafler, 19, of Lincoln; multi-sport athlete Dave Waggoner, 67 of Kearney and wrestler Chance Fry, 14, of Lincoln. Read more...

July 29, 2014 - Omahan Caleb Smidt, 32, was the overall winner of the Cornhusker State Games Triathlon Sunday at Holmes Lake Park in Lincoln in a time of 1:00:04. Smidt, homeless and addicted to drugs in his early 20s, turned his life around and has become a force on the regional triathlon scene. He was personally invited to compete by Games Executive Director Dave Mlnarik. Read more...

July 27, 2014 - The final weekend of competition in the 2014 Cornhusker State Games began with six sports Friday night, including action in BMX Racing, Electronic Darts, Foosball, Ice Hockey, Pickleball and Tennis. Pickleball moved to a new venue, the Miracle Hill Tennis Complex, to accommodate increased numbers. With 68 competitors, the sport grew by 16. Read more...

July 21, 2014 - Badminton, which outgrew its one day Cornhusker State Games format with 79 competitors, wrapped up Sunday at the HPER Complex at UNO with Apirat Lattison of Omaha outdueling Wei Ming Lim of Lincoln for the Men’s Open Gold and Polina Kaniuka taking the Women’s Open Gold over Lourdes Mena of Grand Island. Read more...