COLUMBIA — The Show-Me State Games kicked off Friday after a torch relay and an opening ceremony complete with thousands of athletes from across the state, special guests and the lighting of the torch.
The day started off with a torch relay run from Jefferson City to Columbia. Members from the Missouri National Guard took turns carrying the torch.
“We started at 11:30 a.m. and ran from the Capitol Building to KOMU/Channel 8, so about 25 miles,” National Guardsman Roger Filler said. “We were then picked up from there and taken to the Boone County Courthouse.”
From the courthouse, the Missouri National Guard runners teamed up with Renee Alvarez, Amy Gundy and Connor Gundy, all runners from Columbia, to take turns carrying the torch to Hearnes Center.
Following the torch relay, thousands crowded Hearnes Center for the opening ceremonies of the 24th annual games.
Lauren Whitney, KOMU news anchor, was the emcee for the night and kicked things off by welcoming the crowd and started building the excitement for the nation’s largest state games.
Athletes of all ages then paraded out onto the floor while chanting their team names as loud cheers and applause from friends and family members rained down upon them.
Miss Missouri, Lacy Fitzgerald, then wowed the crowd with her rendition of the national anthem.
The Mid-Missouri High Steppers energized the audience further with a medley of drums and dance rhythms.
Whitney then introduced the night’s special guest, MU football player Chase Daniel, who was met with a roar of applause and cheers.
Daniel was glad to be a part of the games and to be a motivator for the athletes.
“I’m glad kids can look up to me. I knew I looked up to a lot of college players when I was a kid and that helped me out a lot,” Daniel said.
Stewart Bush, named the games’ Mega Athlete of the Year, brought in the torch down the aisles of the arena before handing the torch off to the Missouri National Guardsmen. The torch was then passed to Daniel and teammates Jeremy Maclin and William Moore as they lit the main torch on stage and shouted, “Let the Games Begin.”
As the arena emptied, Whitney thanked the hundreds of volunteers and said the games could no got on without the help of thousands of volunteers.
“It’s really great to be a part of all of this and be a part of the community and have the kids participate in such a great event,” said Clarence Mends, a volunteer from Columbia.
Mends and his wife have been helping out at the games for several years. They are glad to help out and enjoy watching their two daughters participate in the sporting events.
Over the course of the next two weekends, athletes from all across the state will compete in more than 40 sports.
The competition will heat up even more when the Missouri welcomes a dozen other states to Columbia for the State Games of Mid-America Aug. 1-3.