30th annual Sunflower State Games kick off in the Capital City

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Over the next three weekends, 7,000 athletes from across Kansas will meet in the Capital City to compete.

"We have something for everybody,” Mitch Gross, executive director of the games, said. "All ages, all skill levels, all divisions."

Friday marks the first day of this year's games.

"This weekend, we have a total of 24 sports taking place, all told over all three weekends, we'll have 45 different competitions,” Gross said. “Many of them look at this as their big opportunity to compete at a high level against competitors that they may have not faced before. So for them, it's a true state championship."

Friday's hammer throw brought Chuck Shrader to compete, who picked up the sport at age 60. A decade later, he's competing across the country — including the Sunflower State Games.

"I'm always excited to compete here. Always trying to better myself."
For Kristen Herzet, a nursing student and thrower at Bethel College, the games are keeping her on her toes for the upcoming season.

"It's an opportunity to keep competing during the summertime when we're not practicing nine months out of the year, then we still get another opportunity to throw and compete and practice."

Athletes at the games will compete at more than 30 venues in Shawnee Co. through July, marking the largest amateur multi-sport festival in the state.

"It has a huge impact on the economy as far as people coming in town and staying overnight in hotels and shopping and dining at all of our establishments,” Gross said. “So it's a real good opportunity for Topeka to show itself off."