CEDAR CITY – The last day of the 2017 Larry H. Miller Utah Summer Games was the biggest day for gold-seekers as hundreds of medals were handed out to conclude the massive event.
Ultimate Frisbee, 3-on-3 soccer and arm wrestling were some of the trendier events to hand out gold, while the more traditional events like track and field, basketball and baseball also awarded medals for the best in the state of Utah.
“We couldn’t be more excited,” Games director Casey McClellan said. “Overall, it was a fantastic year. A lot of great things happened and we’re very excited in our first year under the Larry H. Miller umbrella. Soccer is something we need to look at to get those numbers back to where they were, but we’re really excited about basketball and a lot of individual sports had growth. Once we get athletes here, we get great retention, which means we’re doing a lot of good things.”
One of those Utah Summer Games fans is 10-year-old Archie Threlfall, who participated in basketball last week and won a gold medal in baseball with his Thunder team Saturday at Veterans Park.
“It’s fun getting to play here in Cedar City,” he said, moments after pitching a complete-game victory over an opponent from Providence (Cache Valley). “We get to stay with my aunt and uncle and go fishing, too. I like getting medals, too. Usually, we just get trophies when we play, so I don’t have a lot of medals. I like wearing them.”
Threlfall also had the game-winning RBI in the gold medal game as the Thunder beat the Mavericks, a team from Grand Junction, Colo. Archie’s dad, Jeriah Threlfall, said the games have become an important part of the summer for his family.
“We try to get out every year,” he said. “The kids like to play for medals, the whole idea with the gold, silver, bronze. Kids play a lot of travel ball these days and they get trophies and they get rings, but this is something a little different. And it’s just fun. The kids come and get the Summer Games shirts and just have a great time.”
An enthusiastic crowd watched the arm wrestling event Saturday at SUU’s PE Building. The divisions were broken down by weight, gender and preferred wrestling arm, though most competitors entered both the left- and right-handed categories. Clayton Langston and his brother Dallas were dominant in the 177-198-pound weight class on the left side. Dallas beat older-brother Clayton for the gold.
“He’s always beat me with the right hand, but I used to beat him with the left,” said Clayton Langston, a father of four from Diamond Valley. “I really like arm wrestling because it’s one man against one man or one girl against one girl. There’s nobody else to rely on. It’s just you against someone else. You give it everything you have and if the other guy is stronger, so be it.”
Langston, in his early 30s, had a stroke and has had two open heart surgeries. But he looks the picture of health now and attributes arm wrestling with helping him heal.
“I went nuts when I was in a room by myself and couldn’t do anything,” he said. “I hated that helpless feeling. I couldn’t wait to get back to the things I love to do.”
Another arm wrestling enthusiast is Summer Kirby, who medaled in the women’s left hand (gold) and right hand (silver). She had several epic battles with Cedar City resident Camille Topham.
“I love arm wrestling as a mom and woman because I love to help build my daughters’ character and encouragement up,” she said. “I love being a mom and a wife and I get to do this with my family and it’s the best thing in the world.”
Summer Kirby said her husband Jeff trained her in the ways of the arm wrestler and now the couple runs the event at the Miller Summer Games.
“We had great competition this year,” she said. “It was a phenomenal tournament. New people, old people – it turned out awesome. We had people from all over Utah, plus people from Colorado and we even had people from Hungary – I mean, a whole other country.”
The Kirby daughters both medaled, with Alissa taking first in the 10-and-under girls event and Lyric winning the 5-7-year-old girls, despite being just three-years-old.
“There’s so much more than just strength put into this,” Summer Kirby said, “Quite a lot of it is technique. You can beat stronger wrestlers by using good technique. To me, it’s more intense than any other sport.”
The Kirbys were also promoting an upcoming arm wrestling event in St. George, the “Armed to Pull” championships at the Dixie Center Aug. 5. Go to southernutaharmwrestling.com to register.
The huge event for the final weekend of the Miller Summer Games is the track and field competition, held inside Eccles Coliseum. Dozens of medals are awarded in just about every possible running, jumping and throwing event, broken down by age and gender groups.
This year’s track and field events saw a huge group of athletes from around Utah and the West.
“We still want to be a traditional Olympic-style sports festival, but as the millennials get involved, we want to take advantage of things that are trending,” McClellan said.
One of those trending sports is Ultimate Frisbee, or just Ultimate as its competitors refer to it. Dozens of teams in youth and adult, men’s and women’s and mixed (co-ed) competed in this year’s games. The Ultimate event took place in north Cedar City near Canyon View’s football field. Teams like “Los Locos” and “Pull That Shiz” competed for gold in the various categories.
Since 1986, the Utah Summer Games has been conducted in Cedar City with an average total of 9,600 participants, 50,000 spectators, and one thousand volunteers in attendance each year.
The games return for 2018 in June of next year, with more than 38 sports, including perhaps another new event or two, McClellan hinted. The hot sport in the state of Utah is lacrosse, which was recently added as a sanctioned Utah High School Activities Association sport. Rugby and even Spikeball have also been considered.
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