September 6, 2017

Athletes of the Year Named

LINCOLN, Neb. (Sep. 5, 2017) - Joseph Mather, a 6 year-old world champion BMX rider from Omaha, has been named the 2017 Cornhusker State Games (CSG) Youth Male Athlete of the Year.  

Mather is joined by chess player/swimmer Jacey Tran, 12, of Lincoln; taekwondo athlete Carl Steffens, 35, of Lincoln; powerlifter Grace Bogner, 24, of Lincoln and badminton player Kaiguo Chang, 56, of Gretna as Athlete of the Year honorees in five categories for the 33rd annual Games held in July.  

The five were chosen from among 10,119 total participants and will be honored at the Nebraska Sports Council (NSC) awards banquet on Oct. 26.

“Our 2017 Athletes of the Year represent the best of Nebraska in every way,” NSC Executive Director Dave Mlnarik said.  “It’s a diverse group of people and sports, which reflects the beauty of the Cornhusker State Games.  But we are most proud that fierce competitiveness and good sportsmanship are common traits in the 2017 winners. They are living examples of winning with class.” 

Mather, who began BMX racing as a three year-old, won the 6-and-under world title representing Team USA at the World BMX Championships in Rock Hill, South Carolina in mid-July.  He returned to Omaha from the World competition just in time to take the gold medal at the CSG BMX event on July 28.

Tran, at age 12, won her CSG chess gold medal against adult players in the Reserve division.  Chess players are divided, not by age or gender, but by rating, which causes better players to face tougher opponents the more they win, and Tran has won a lot, including the last five girls state championships.  She also picked up two gold medals, a silver and a bronze in the 2017 CSG swim meet the week before.

Steffens has earned 21 CSG taekwondo medals, including 10 gold medals, over eight years of competing in the Games. He is also a highly-respected volunteer official for the Games.

Chang’s selection was also influenced partly by his volunteer work promoting and facilitating badminton for the Top Fight Badminton Club and the Cornhusker State Games.  His CSG playing record touts seven medals earned the past three years, including gold medals this year in senior men’s singles and adult mixed doubles.

Bogner earned three CSG gold medals in powerlifting and broke AAU state records for deadlift and overall.  Her nomination touted her attitude, work ethic and charitable work, including two mission trips to Haiti and one to the Philippines in recent years.

Nebraska’s Athletes of the Year have been nominated for National Congress of State Games Athlete of the Year honors, which will be awarded at the Teams Conference Awards Banquet on Oct. 31 in Orlando, Florida.

NSC Officials reported that 85 counties were represented in 2017, with Lancaster—4,446, Douglas—1,648, Sarpy—692, Buffalo—201 and Saunders—192, making up the top five counties.  The youngest participant was Council Bluffs armwrestler Ethan Hall, 2; the oldest was track and field athlete Dorothy Ekblad, 90, of Lincoln.  Top five sports in participation were basketball—819, soccer—812, softball—719, volleyball—622 and track and field—612.

The 34th annual Cornhusker State Games will be held July 20-29, 2018.

The Nebraska Sports Council, which conducts the Cornhusker State Games, the Mud Run and the Pumpkin Run, is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization with platinum partners including Farmers Mutual of Nebraska, Nebraska Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine and LinPepCo. Learn more at  


Media notes: Search CSG medal results by county, city or sport HERE.  Photos of athletes of the year, if available, can be found HERE.


September 6, 2017 - Joseph Mather, a 6 year-old world champion BMX rider from Omaha, has been named the 2017 Cornhusker State Games (CSG) Youth Male Athlete of the Year.

July 27, 2017 - The final weekend of the 33rd annual Cornhusker State Games features competition in 24 sports, starting with Bass Fishing, BMX Racing, Electronic Darts and Tennis on Friday, July 28.

May 26, 2017 - The Nebraska Sports Council (NSC) has announced that Farmers Mutual of Nebraska CEO Mark Walz has been named the  Honorary Chairman of the 2017 Cornhusker State Games. Read more...

April 11, 2017 - The Nebraska Sports Council has announced that Hall of Fame Kearney State basketball player and 25-year UNK Head Coach Tom Kropp has been named the  Honorary Parade Marshal of the 2017 Cornhusker State Games (CSG) Opening Ceremonies. Read more...

February 27, 2017 - The Nebraska Sports Council has announced the 2017 Cornhusker State Games (CSG) Torch Run route/schedule and is encouraging Nebraska runners of all ages to sign up for a mile.  Officials have also opened the search for a national anthem performer for the Games’ Opening Ceremonies.