Athletes of all ages from all over Missouri came to Columbia Saturday for the first weekend of the Show-Me State Games.
Many of the athletes are middle school and high school students who signed up to take part in the Olympics-style sports festival, which is celebrating 30 years and has become the largest event of its kind in the country.
Some of the teenage contenders described the competition as fierce.
At Town and Country Lanes, 85 kids square off to see who could earn a gold medal.
14 year-old Columbia resident Josiah Youngblood ended up breaking his own record in his bid to win. â??I ended up shooting a 687 series,â?? Youngblood said. â??I hit 141 pins over the average Show Me State Games record.â??
Some of the other major events that took place Saturday included basketball, soccer, and softball. Some of those events will continue into Sunday.
At Hickman High School, Gentry Copple and her friend Hayes Heussner spent the day competing on the basketball court. They both said the games are something they look forward to all year.
â??I like how they are from Missouri, theyâ??re not from different states. We are all like one big group that gets to come and play together,â?? Copple said.
Thousands of spectators in volunteers were in Columbia Saturday to cheer the athletes on. Coach David Johnson said the games give kids a chance to develop a love for sports.
â??You know, we have fourth graders out here playing basketball,â?? Johnson said. â??Theyâ??re trying their best to be as successful as they possibly can, seeing the ups and downs and the highs and lows of competition."
Many of the athletes and family members said although winning is exhilarating, their main goal is to have fun and spend time together.
The athletes will have all day Sunday and the weekend of July 25-27.
In 2013, 25,566 people participated in the summer games. Organizers say they expect that number to be even higher this year.