Family Fun and Record-Breaking Performances at the Sunshine State Games Palm Beach County Festival

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June 13, 2015

Family Fun and Record-Breaking Performances at the SSG Palm Beach County Festival

WEST PALM BEACH – Families competed side by side and against one another, records were broken and athletes returned to competition after taking a much needed break at the Sunshine State Games Palm Beach County Festival Saturday.  More than 1,500 athletes competed in eight sports, including seven held at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.


It was a big day for Frets and Marcello Olivares, of Hollywood as the Men’s Foil event ended in a father and son matchup in the gold medal match.  14-year old Marcello Olivares defeated, dad, Frets,  15-14 in Championship match.


Following the Men’s Foil bracket, both Olivares’ won gold medals with Frets Winning the Veteran Men’s Foil and Marcello winning the Y-14 Men’s Foil.   Olivia Verughese, of Delray Beach, also won a pair of gold medals winning the Senior Women’s and Y-14 Women’s Foil events.


Sam and Megan Neal are not just an ordinary brother and sister from Gainesville.  Today they were a Sunshine State Games Karate gold-medal winning brother and sister combo from Gainesville.  While 19 year old Sam won the Men’s Advanced 18-34 Year old Kumite competition, 18-year old Megan won the Women’s Advanced 18-34 year old event.  Megan has won SSG gold medals since 2005 and was named the Gainesville Sun’s 2015 Weightlifter of the Year


Nu Yu Taekwondo, from Morriston, won the SSG Team Trophy, awarded to the team who has the best representation and results.  Nu Yu brought 14 athletes to the Palm Beach County Convention Center and each of the athletes won at least two gold medal, according to Sport Director, Master James White , of Tampa.


Jacksonville’s Jeremy Simmons and his three daughters (Kate, Lauren, Heidi) and son (Andrew), ranging in age from 6 to 12, totaled 11 Taekwondo medals.  Jeremy, a 5th Dan Kukkiwon Black Belt, and instructor at the Korean Taekwondo of America Club (KTA), decided not to compete, but provided moral support along with his wife, Pam


It was a record-setting day at the Powerlifting competition as 10 USA Powerlifting American records were shattered.


Brianna Morrison, a 13-year old from Hastings, set thee American Youth Records and Suzanne LaForge set three American Masters 2 (age 50-59) Records with a squat of 309 pounds, a deadlift of 407 pounds and a total of 881 pounds.


Evan Higbee, from Wellington, and Katarina Hennessey, of Miami, set records in the Teenage Division.  Hennessey’s record came on her bench press of 89 pounds and Higbee’s deadlift of 414 kilos was a record setter.  It was 15-year old Katarina Hennessey’s first meet after taking up the sport two months ago, according to her father, Dr. Bill Hennessey, coach of the Florida International University Powerlifting Team.


Jordan Berke, of Palm Beach Gardens, and Wellington’s Nick Isreal, both top-ranked lifters by USA Powerlifting, posted record-setting American Open performances as Berke had a deadlift of 622 lbs and Isreal had a squat of 518 pounds and a bench press of 363 pounds.

“We had two of the top lifters within their weight classes in the country here today at the Sunshine State Games,” said Powerlifting Sport Director, Robert Keller, from Davie, speaking of Berke and Isreal.


Berke, who is one of the founding members of the Florida State University Powerlifting team, had the highest combined lift of all athletes Saturday with 1,578 pounds.  He had a deadlift of 622 pounds, a squat of 534 pounds and a bench press of 421 pounds.


Kyle Hannah, of Team Florida Volusia County and Weightlifting coach at Spruce Creek High School, had the highest total of the day of the men’s weightlifters with a combined 696 pounds.  He had a Clean and Jerk of 388 pounds and a snatch of 308 in the senior division.  Not too far behind with Team Florida Volusia County teammate Christian Seymour, and Paul Smith Team Florida Manatee County with a combined total of 599 pounds.


The top female lifter was Jennifer Schrage, of West Palm Beach, with a combined lift of 394 pounds (220 clean and jerk, 174 snatch).


After taking a break from Judo, LaQuinta Allen, of Lauderdale Lakes returned to the mats at the 2015 Palm Beach County Festival with a gold-medal winning performance.  Allen, who last competed in the Sunshine State Games in 2006, was a member of the 2010 Senior World Championship Team and Junior Pan American Championship team that won a silver medal. She won a bronze medal at the 2010 USA Judo Senior National Tournament. She won the gold medal in the Women’s 17-29, all over 70kg Division, winning three matches.


The SSG Judo Outstanding Adult Female Athlete was Margarita Cabrera, of Tuero Judo Club, while the Outstanding Male Athlete was Alejandro Casuso, of Mambie Judo.  The Outstanding Junior Male Athlete was Alejandro Lopez, of the Tuero Judo Club.  Brian Germain, an athlete and coach from Bartow, was awarded the Renee Duchene Award, for his contributions to the sport of Judo in Florida.


Individual Folkstyle, Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling was on the mats Saturday and seven wrestlers won two gold medals in the three events.  Adrian Neco, of Somerset Wrestling had two in the Lower 85 pound division. Three members of the Homestead PAL team won a pair.  Tyree  Graham and Jahiem Trice, in the Early 50 and 65 pound divisions, respectively, and Santiago Arciniega, in the Lower 110 pound division, Luis Pereza, of Gladiator Wrestling, won in the Middle 95 pound division and Zachery Sherman, of Eagle Empire Wrestling won a pair in the Upper 137 pound division.

In the only sport not held at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, Garrett Dew won a pair of gold medals in BMX Cycling at Okeeheelee Park. Of the over 80 riders competing, Dew was the only one to win both events held.


The SSG Palm Beach County Festival continues Sunday with Fencing, Powerlifting, Taekwondo and Wrestling in action at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, with Fencing being the first to start, beginning at 8:30 a.m.


The Sunshine State Games is an annual program of the Florida Sports Foundation, the state’s lead sports promotion and development organization.  The Palm Beach County Festival is held in conjunction with the Palm Beach County Sports Commission.  For more information on the Sunshine State Games, visit

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