76-year old athlete who escaped from Cuba in a Kayak wins Sunshine State Games Gold Medals in Canoe/Kayak

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SARASOTA – The 2015 Sunshine State Games Sarasota Bradenton Festival opened Saturday with all seven sports and over 1,500 of Florida’s finest amateur athletes in action.
Athletes ranging in age from five years old to over 80 athletes competed in the 36th year of the Sunshine State Games, the longest continuously-running State Games in the U.S.
While the fastest sprinter of the day at the Canoe/Kayak 200, 500 and 1000 meter sprints at Nathan Benderson Park, was Henry Diaz, of Cape Coral, the most inspirational story of the day was the two gold medals won by 76-year old Rafael Paz, of Miami.  Paz escaped from Cuba in a kayak in 1964 and was in the water for 24 hours before being picked up by a United Fruit Ship.  He settled in Miami and has been paddling for recreational purposes since he retired as a construction worker.


Diaz posted the fastest overall time in all three K-1 races finishing the 200 meter sprint in 40.12, the 500 meter in 1:53 and the 1000 meter in 4:06. He recently won a silver medal at the 2015 USA Canoe/Kayak Flatwater Sprint Team Trials in Oklahoma City, April 24-25.

The 2014 Sunshine State Games Female Athlete of the Year, Graciana Wargo, of Palm Harbor, was presented with her award during competition at the Sarasota Bath and Racquet Club.  Between herself, her brother, Evan and father, Gary, the family played 17 matches Saturday and Graciana teamed with her brother in Mixed B Doubles competition.
Wargo will play in the 2015 USA Racquetball Junior Olympics in Stockton, California later this month in hopes of qualifying for the Junior Racquetball World Championships in the Dominican Republic in October.
In the Men’s 60+ Singles, Wes Teel, of Mims, won the gold medal, winning all four matches of pool play within the five person division.  In the Men’s A/B Singles combined event, Mauricio Muriel, of Fort Lauderdale, won three of four pool play matches while playing up from the B to A Division.


At the SSG Swimming Championships in Gainesville, the Gator Swim Club has a large lead in the women’s team standings with 556 points, more than 300 ahead of the Area Tallahassee Aquatic Club (ATAC).  In the men’s team standings, ATAC leads the Gator Swim Club by 49 points with 411, as compared to 362 to the Gator Swim Club.  The competition wraps up tomorrow.
Ultimate was played at the Premier Sports Complex with pool play in the Men’s Open Division and Mixed Division.  Two teams in each division were undefeated in five games.  In the Open Division, Force and UpRoar were 5-0, each escaping with one game during pool play with a one point win.  In the Mixed Division, The Hucking Dead and G-Unit went 5-0.  Hucking Dead held all five opponents to under 10 points while G-Unit had two one point wins.


In the Archery competition at Premier Sports Complex and Sarasota Archers, Jake Kaminski, of Gainesville, and Scott Barrett, of Land O’ Lakes, had the high scores in the 720 round.  Kaminski, who returned from a competition in Turkey two days ago shot a 664 in the Adult Male Olympic Recurve division from 70 meters at a 122 centimeter face.  Barrett had a 661 in the Adult Male Compound Release, shooting from 50 meters at an 80 centimeter face.


James Harden, of Davie, posted the high score in the Field Event with a 548 of a possible 560 score.


Michael Vaughn, of St. Petersburg, repeated as the gold medal winner in the Disc Golf Men’s Advance Division with a score of 97, shooting a front nine score of 49 and a 48 on the back nine.  Chris Hermandez, of Sarasota, won the Men’s Recreational Division with a score of 86.  The lowest women’s score was turned in by Meg Sapp, of Fort Myers, with a 97.


The Hialeah Stormettes won the Synchronized Swimming Mary Rose High Point Trophy for the Novice Division winning seven total medals (4 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze). All Star Synchro, of Davie, and Miramar, each won four medals each. Rowing was held at Nathan Benderson Park.


The Games continue Sunday with five sports; Archery (Sarasota Archers and Premier Sports Complex), Canoe/Kayak (Marathon Races at Fort Hamer Park), Synchronized Swimming (Intermediate and Open Divisions at Selby Aquatic Center), Ultimate (Premier Sports Complex) and Swimming in Gainesville.


The Sunshine State Games are an annual event of the Florida Sports Foundation and the Sarasota-Bradenton Festival is held in conjunction with the Sarasota County Sports Commission and the Bradenton Area CVB.  The Swimming Championships is held in conjunction with the Gainesville Sports Commission.   Visit www.flasports.com for more information.


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