CEDAR CITY – Intense adult volleyball, high-velocity dodgeball, record-breaking swimming and disc golf (in a gusting wind) wind helped cap off the second week of the Larry H. Miller Utah Summer Games at various venues in Iron County Saturday.
“Within the last three or four years, we’ve seen an increase in growth, especially among the kids,” USG swimming event director Adam Caldwell said. “Swimming is increasingly becoming a more popular sport for a lot of reasons. One is that you can do it as a family. We have the adults swimming in the morning and the kids swimming in the afternoon, and we have several examples of mom or dad swimming and then their kids swimming later in the day. That’s one of the unique things about the Summer Games.”
Caldwell said about 300 athletes competed in the swimming events, with the youngest being seven-years-old and the oldest being 84. He also said he was continually amazed at how good the swimmers are in Utah, with USG, state and national records falling every year.
One of those record-breakers was 11-year-old Elizabeth Boyer of Springville. The soon-to-be sixth grader swam the 200-meter butterfly in a time of 2:32.33, beating the prior Utah state record by more than two seconds. That time makes her the second fastest 11-year-old in the country this year in the 200 fly.
Dani Caldwell, who coaches high school and club swimming in St. George and Washington, said the event is a big draw for her swimmers, who get a chance to compete in new and unique circumstances and for a gold medal.
“It’s really fun for the kids to be involved in this meet,” she said. “Not all the swimmers here are club swimmers, so to have a bigger picture, a broader range for what swimming is in Utah, is really important. Plus, some of them are good enough to get up on a podium and get a medal and that doesn’t happen except in high school.”
Disc golf, or Frisbee golf (for the uninitiated), took place at the Three Peaks Recreation Area, though wind played havoc with the 30 or so golfers involved. Many of us have played disc golf with the cheap Frisbee or other disc, but the more serious disc golfers have a “bag of clubs,” much like a regular golfer.
“We carry about 10 or so discs in our bags,” said Lonnie Kearns of St. George. “There are ones for distance, for putting, for wind, for many different needs or conditions.”
One of the golfers, a bit of a prodigy, is Kaden Peterson of Farmington. The 16-year-old won gold at the Miller Summer Games this year and has high hopes of hitting the professional disc golfers tour (yes, they have one of those).
“My dad got me into it at the beginning and a guy at his work hooked us up with some of the discs,” Peterson said. “I used to play Ultimate (Frisbee) with the high school club team and didn’t really know anything about disc golf. Now, I go all over the place to play – Idaho, Nevada, California. The pros go out on tour all over the United States and Canada. The winners each weekend make up to $5,000, so that’s my goal, to go pro and do this for a living.”
Kaden’s dad, Mike Peterson, also competed at the Miller Summer Games, though the scores were well above par with a gusting wind in the western portion of Iron County.
“I did better today than yesterday, but Kaden usually kicks my butt anyway,” Mike Peterson said.
Disc golf director Scott Sharp, who also took silver in the Super Senior division (age 40 and older), said the sport is starting to really catch on.
“We’ve got two 18-hole championship courses at Three Peaks and just like ball golf, the idea is to get the lowest score possible,” he said. “The ‘hole’ is a metal pole with a chain basket and if you hit the chains and it stays in the basket, that’s a made shot. With the wind this weekend, it’s made things really hard. But we had a lot of fun and a lot of great players came down this week for the Summer Games. The sport is definitely growing in southern Utah.”
Another popular event this year is adult volleyball, with teams throughout the state competing for gold at local gymnasiums. Cedar High hosted the women’s rec gold division.
A couple of gold-medal winning teammates, Emily Doxey and Tonya Luiz, said the experience of the Miller Summer Games was amazing.
“Well, first of all, we came here to kick butt,” said Doxey, who hails from Hyde Park (near Logan). “But we have players on our team from Cache Valley, Idaho and Nevada. We love volleyball and we love the opportunity of playing together and keeping up as we get a little older.”
Luiz, who lives in Fallon, Nev., said the experience of meeting friends at the games is like a big reunion.
“I used to live in Logan, so that’s how I met Emily,” she said. “I wanted to come see these guys. I only see them once a year, really. It’s fun to come and catch up with everybody. We rented an apartment together, all us girls. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Dodgeball made its debut in the 2017 Miller Summer Games this weekend, with the matches coming fast and furious on the campus of SUU.
“First year, and it really went better than we anticipated,” event director Casey McLellan said. “We had a bunch of former football players from Southern Utah playing and we had great co-ed teams. It was more competitive than what people might think. These are athletes, and once you start playing, the switch goes on. It was extremely intense. We had to start refereeing. We had a lot of people watching and they all said they were going to sign up for next year.”
There is one more week in the Miller Summer Games. Events scheduled for next week include arm wrestling, adult and youth basketball, baseball, cycling, equestrian, 3-on-3 soccer, tae kwon do, ultimate Frisbee, table tennis and the crowning event, the track and field races at Eccles Coliseum.
For results and schedules of upcoming events, go to the Larry H. Miller Utah Summer Games website.
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