LINCOLN – Every year, for ten days, at the end of July athletes from across the state converge on the state capital to compete in the Cornhusker State Games.

This year’s event is scheduled to begin with the opening ceremony at Seacrest Field in Lincoln on July 17.

As of now, the 36th annual Cornhusker State Games are still on as scheduled, but like every other public spectacle, the event is held captive by circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak.

Nebraska Sport Council Executive Director Dave Mlnarik like everyone else is conducting business from the comfort of home.

Even though the Nebraska Sports Council offices are closed, plans for the games forge ahead behind Mlnarik.

“It is business as usual for us. We already had the ability to work remotely, so it really hasn’t been a big adjustment for us,” Mlnarik stated.

Planning for this year’s games began in August of last year, two weeks after the 2019 games.

“It’s a year round process for us. We are constantly preparing and getting ready for the state games,” Mlnarik said.

The ten day amateur competition is held at 70 different sites in Lincoln, Omaha and surrounding communities.

Mlnarik insists that the council is going to do everything in their power to make sure that this year’s games happen.

He feels like it is important.

“I think it has the chance be the most impactful Cornhusker State Games in the history of the event. It’s been tough. People are pleading with us to not cancel. They want something to look forward to. And I told them that we will do everything we can to make sure that we have the games,” he said.

At the same time, he knows the council has to follow the guidelines set by the national and local health departments.

“Ultimately we will follow the health directives put forth by the state of Nebraska,” said Mlnarik.

He is hoping that some of the social distancing and limited gathering restrictions are lifted in time for the games to go off as planned, but contingency plans are being put together, including hosting the event without spectators.

“We are pretty much prepared for any kind of scenario at this point. The hardest thing is dealing with the unknown,” Mlnarik said.

Every year the Nebraska Chiropractic Physicians Association hosts a torch run in conjunction with the games. It’s a relay across the state where runners transport the torch to Lincoln to signify the start of the games.

Due to the restrictions caused by the epidemic, the sports council has been forced to get creative and is doing the first ever Virtual Torch Run.

Residents from all 93 counties are invited to take part in the virtual run by safely running at least one mile from the comfort of their area/neighborhood/home.

After completing their leg of the torch run, participants are asked to submit a photo via email or social media.

“The response has been phenomenal. We had 150 runners signed up in the first three days. It’s a great opportunity for runners in all 93 counties to be able to take part,” Mlnarik said.

The virtual torch run will begin on June 1 and will conclude on June 25 with runners completing miles in Gage, Lancaster, Saline, Saunders and Seward counties.

Registration is free and can be done online at cornhuskerstategames.com.

For now, in between daily virtual meetings, Mlnarik is getting in some fishing and is enjoying some extra time spent with the family.

“It’s been great. The chance to get away from the normal routine and spend time with the family offers a new perspective. At the same time, when the time comes to get back to business we will be ready to go,” he said.

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