Meridian Star

Sports

June 21, 2014

Former track star runs for country now

MERIDIAN — Mississippians flocked to downtown Meridian and gathered in front of City Hall, flooding the streets as they took in the sights and sounds celebrating the 23rd annual opening ceremonies of the State Games of Mississippi Friday.

Locals cheered and danced, taking in the festivities as local band The Slackers entertained the crowd.

"We expect to have a larger turnout than last year," Marketing and Directing Director of the Games Krilecia Gianakos said. "We're expecting a great turnout, we're expecting just over 10,000 people in attendance."

Support from the City of Meridian has proven vital in establishing the event for another successful run.

"We want to thank all of the staff for the support they've shown,” Gianakos said. "And to thank you to the city of Meridian and all the city workers. They are the ones that helped set this up."

Among the thousands in attendance of the celebration was U.S. Navy Seaman Rodney Martin, who served as a guest for the event.

But Martin, 31, is not your ordinary serviceman, having represented the U.S. in the 2008 Olympics in the 4x100 relay. Additionally, Martin claimed a gold medal at the World Championships in 2007.

Martin enlisted into the military last year and has been stationed in Meridian the last few months.

"When it came to my decision to join the military, I researched all the different branches and decided on the Navy," Martin said. "I chose the Navy because of what the Navy represent. I like what they stand for when it comes to the honor, courage and commitment. I spoke with a lot of officers and military members, and I decided on the Navy."

Community involvement has served as an instrumental part in Martin’s upbrining, hence why the Navy vet has maintained his involvement since being statione in Meridian.

"I've always participated in a lot of community events," Martin said. "I think about when I was a young kid, I grew up a little hard. And when police officers and fire department came out to talk to our school, that really inspired me. So I knew I always wanted to give back to my community when I could."

Serving for his country has also provided an alternate opportunity for Martin to provide for his local community.

"The Navy gives you the opportunity of being able to give back," Martin said. "And I just want to take advantage of that opportunity to continue to be a positive role model in every aspect that I can.”

Ultimately, Martin says there is no greater thrill for him than to be able to give back to his country, one that has given so much to him.

"Serving your country is a great thing," he said. "I feel like it's something that I can put as icing on my legacy, knowing that I made that step to serve my country in the military."

Highlighting the evening, athletes participating in the State Games marched down 7th Street and onto 23rd Street to the cheer of the crowd, as well as L-17 military aircrafts providing a flyover that sent a roar throughout the spectators.

Culminating the events, Brandon Ivey and Faye Stokes ran the torches onto the stage, lighting the official State Games flame through a zip line which connected from the stage out onto the Doughboy Memorial. Immediately afterward, the spectators were treated to a firework display.

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