MERIDIAN, Miss. (State Games Staff) A young swimmer who breaks records, a 65-year-old track and field competitor who has won more than 118 medals and a runner who brings home the gold have captured top honors as 2018 Rush Athletes of the Year for the State Games of Mississippi. Megan Heggie (Meridian), Ray Gildea (Madison) and Kylie Joiner (Decatur) will be recognized at the annual Athlete of the Year celebration this Saturday and will be torchbearers at the 2019 Opening Ceremony.
Based on the national program, the State Games of Mississippi established the annual “Athlete of the Year” award to recognize Mississippi’s amateur athletes. Coaches, officials, athletes, volunteers and spectators nominated one male and one female athlete from each of the 42 sports for the award. The nominated athletes — out of nearly 6,000 who participated in 2018 — personify the ideals of the State Games movement, such as participation, sportsmanship, special attributes, achievements, efforts and positive attitudes.
Megan Heggie — 2018 Youth Athlete of the Year
Fourteen-year-old Megan Heggie has broken or set many team records in her age group, as well as the open age group, having a time better than previous Mississippi Swim Association swimmers that are older. She has a total of 13 new records in the 13-14 girls age group, and has achieved a total of 17 top-five times in all of the different swim strokes.
She received the MSA Coaches’ Award in 2018 and was the first place High Point Winner of the swim season, scoring more than 1,000 points. She also won “Most Improved Female Swimmer,” for the team for the seventh year in a row. This award is given to the swimmer who cuts the most time off during the swim season at any meet.
Not only will she have the honor of running the torch at the 2019 State Games of Mississippi, Megan already had the honor to be a flag bearer for the State Games of America in 2017 at the Opening Ceremony in Grand Rapids, MI.
Ray Gildea— 2018 Male Athlete of the Year
For more than 27 years, Ray Gildea of Madison has been competing in track and field, road racing and marathon running. With more than 118 medals won in the State Games of Mississippi, Gildea has also competed in the Senior Olympics for the past 15 years and run 161 marathons.
“The challenge of sustaining a track season every year while in perpetual marathon training is hard, because of minor injuries,” said the 65-year-old. “In qualifying for the National Senior Games, I pulled a calf muscle and had to compete hurt the rest of the way. Two weeks later, I did recover sufficiently to earn two golds, a silver and a bronze in the USATF Southeast Regional Master’s Championships.”
Kylie Joiner — 2018 Female Athlete of the Year
Kylie Joiner of Decatur has participated in the State Games of Mississippi for 20 years, as a competitor for 20 and as a volunteer for 10. She has medaled in four sports — softball (gold), soccer (silver) 5K (gold) and trail run (gold).
A graduate of West Lauderdale High School, Kylie was a two-sport athlete as a youth — soccer (state finalist) and softball (State Champion). She holds a masters degree from Mississippi State University and undergraduate degree from the University of Southern Mississippi. She is currently a CPA with the State of Mississippi Auditor’s Department.