LINCOLN — Organizers and Nebraskans are getting excited for this summer’s Cornhusker State Games.
The annual event orchestrated by the Nebraska Sports Council offers competitions in 70 sports and averages between 10,000 and 12,000 participants. Last year’s State Games were scaled back because of the pandemic. Now, Executive Director Dave Mlnarik says people are ready to compete.
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder, I guess," Mlnarik said. "There’s just a lot of good early entry numbers and a lot of enthusiasm for participating and also volunteering.”
The first element of the State Games in the torch run. At least one person from every county participated in last year’s virtual run, so the Sports Council is keeping the format. Participants are asked to run at least a mile, take a photo and submit. Runners will get a free shirt and be added to drawings for more prizes.
“Hopefully we’ll have somewhere around 1500 to 2000 runners that just show their enthusiasm and express the spirit of the games in their area,” Mlnarik said.
Some of the legs of the torch run will be live this year and the opening ceremonies will return to Seacrest Field in Lincoln. Mlnarik says those events are what make the State Games a festival, more than just a series of tournaments.
“So that’s really what it’s about," Mlnarik said. "You go and look at the lining up of the parade of athletes and you see the fencing participants talking to the volleyball participants… it’s a wonderful scene.”
The torch run starts in western Nebraska on May 24. The Cornhusker State Games opening ceremonies are July 16 with competitions lasting through the 25th.
There are some venue changes to report. Youth volleyball and softball competitions will be in Kearney, swimming is moving to Columbus and the Super Retriever series will be in Grand Island.