CEDAR CITY – When the last arrow from the last archer flies Sunday afternoon, the Utah Summer Games will have wrapped up its 29th year, handing out approximately 5000 metals in 40 sports.
The Utah Summer Games has a rich history and has grown since it’s early beginnings; with the idea of a Utah state games dating back to 1984.
Gerald R. Sherratt, Southern Utah University’s president from 1982 to 1997, had the idea for an Olympic-style competition when he noticed large amounts of cars travelling past Cedar City to Los Angeles for the 1984 Summer Olympics.
“(Sherratt) started doing some research and looking around and actually found that there were a couple of states that were conducting state games,” said Casey McClellan, current director of the Utah Summer Games. “In 1986, the Utah Summer Games began.”
Sherratt’s vision of the Summer Games was to expose people to Cedar City, specifically SUU, McClellan said. He also wanted to create economic development by bringing outside dollars to be spent in Cedar City.
“His dream to do those things is certainly something we hope to continue,” McClellan said. “(We want) to carry on and serve as an opportunity for exposure to our university, to get students engaged in wanting to be future T-Birds.”
The Summer Games showcases the community and the different opportunities Cedar City provides beyond the athletic competition, Cedar City mayor Maile Wilson said.
The Summer Games features a unique tournament experience as it encompasses dozens of different sports and tournaments at once.
“That’s what makes us different,” McClellan said. “I think we try to celebrate the athlete across the spectrum, not just any particular athlete in any particular sport. We love to recognize all the different athletes that are out there, whatever their sport of choice may be.”
The games take place during June every year, with competition lasting nearly the entire month.
Although sports competition is the premise of the games, the Opening Ceremonies is a community favorite, featuring entertainment, a firework show and the walk of the athletes.
“With the opening ceremonies, athletes are recognized and able to march the track and get the accolades they deserve for all the hard work it takes to be an athlete,” McClellan said.
The games don’t just bring competition, but an overall excitement to the community, Wilson said.
In Summer Games competition, divisions and categories are created in order to avoid a novice competing against an expert. This includes age and skill level divisions depending on the sport.
“One thing that we do certainly try to do as an organization is give people a fair and equal playing field to win a medal,” McClellan said.
Seeing athletes strive, whether that includes them getting a medal or setting a personal best, motivates the Summer Games staff to continue each and every year, McClellan said.
Hall of Honor
The Utah Summer Games also features athletes for excellence in their individual sport through the Hall of Honor.
To be inducted in the Hall of Honor, an athlete has to have accomplished some sort of accolade in their sport, and they must be a Utah resident at the time. Since its inception, the Hall of Honor has inducted athletes every year. It has since 2012 it has been decided that the Hall of Honor will induct athletes every Summer Olympic year.
Cameron Levins was inducted into the Hall of Honor in 2012 for his running excellence at SUU. He is SUU’s only national champion with NCAA titles in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters.
Levins has won multiple national titles in his native Canada while also competing in world championships and the 2012 Summer Olympics, placing 11th in the 10,000 meters. He currently runs professionally for Nike with the Nike Oregon Project.
Levins also had the opportunity to be the torch barrer, signifying the beginning of the games.
“It sort of gave me a realization of just how big (the Summer Games) were in Utah,” Levins said. “I didn’t really have a big understanding, but there’s really a large following of it across Utah and especially down in Cedar City.”
While attending the opening ceremonies, Levin’s said “It was a really big deal, and very well put on.”
The Utah Summer Games brings an attention to the area and goes along with the Festival City U.S.A. theme Cedar City is known for, Levins said. The games also provides an opportunity for people of all ages to compete.
“I think what’s really cool about the Utah Summer Games is that lots of different people can compete in it.” Levins said, “There’s no real restrictions, I think it’s for everybody. It’s a good reason for everyone to stay active. I think that’s what I liked about it.”
Although there have been sports with fewer participants than in years past, namely soccer, overall participation numbers are up from last year, McClellan said.
“We had a record year in baseball, we had a record year in basketball,” McClellan said. “The swimming events are the biggest they’ve ever been in the history of the Utah Summer Games.”
With overall numbers higher, soccer participation was down from last year by 18 teams.
“Certainly we were disappointed that we haven’t been at the same number that we’ve been in that last few years in soccer,” McClellan said, “We’re definitely going to be doing our best to identify if there was an issue.”
Summer Games competition will conclude this week with archery, cycling, pickleball and rugby.
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