Two weeks before they’ll compete at the North West Regional, CrossFit Intensify grinds their way through team Event 4. They set up behind their box in a strip mall in Springfield, Ore., while other athletes at the box run past in the middle of a Saturday morning workout. Caitlin Ritchey pushes through the front squats as coach and CFI owner Zach Smith counts reps. CFI athletes yell words of encouragement to their team. Ritchie and Christina Sloyer run inside to do pull-ups while teammates Colin Schoonover and Ben Stoneberg hold the bar.
Ben Stoneberg finished 20th in the CrossFit Games last year.
As the individual competition to get to the CrossFit Games gets more difficult every year, so does the team competition. This year’s Regionals have many teams that include athletes who qualified as individuals. One team to watch in the North West is CrossFit Intensify.
Intensify’s team includes Stoneberg, who finished 3rd in the North West in this year’s Open; Kendall Burnham, who finished 2nd in the Open; Christina Sloyer, who finished 8th; and Jered Souder, who finished 25th.
So why go team?
“It was up in the air until the last minute,” says Burnham. “I think for all of us, it was all in or all individual. Once Ben (Stoneberg) decided to join us, it was a no brainer!”
Stoneberg says this team has a good shot at the Games. With Sloyer and Schoonover possibly moving away after this year, this was an opportunity to take a contending team to the Games.
Burnham and Sloyer agree their team has many strengths and no glaring weaknesses, which was part of the reason to go team, according to Sloyer. “We have a unique opportunity this year with a solid team with a lot of depth and no holes,” says Sloyer.
And possibly the best reason to go team: “Because I love these guys!”
Burnham and Sloyer both competed as individuals at the North West Regional in 2011. Neither of them has changed much in their training, except for team aspects, including transitions and communication. During this workout, the teammates count their last three reps, so the next athlete can be ready to go.
Since the decision to go team, Intensify has been doing one or two workouts a week as a team. “We strategize beforehand and analyze how the workout went afterwards,” says Sloyer.
The team training also leads to a different mindset. “The motivations shift to be more selfless, requiring each of us to check the ego and act according to what will be best for the team instead of the best for us personally,” says Sloyer.
Stoneberg says training as a team is a different experience, with the rest time during workouts contributing to nervousness he never felt as an individual. He looks forward to the Regional experience of being part of the team. At last year’s Regionals, he says he focused on his individual competition and wasn’t able to support his team as much as he wanted to at the event.
Stoneberg has been working on his weaknesses this year, focusing on Olympic lifting. He’s been doing both the team and the individual Regional Workouts, noting that he doesn’t have to do the individual workouts, but he wants to.
The former individual competitors enjoy the motivation and support that come with the team training. “The best part about being on a team is that you don't want to be the weak link or the one that lets the team down, so we all are striving to train hard and be our best on Game Day! Our box is very supportive and excited for us, and that makes it fun too,” says Burnham.
Sloyer and Burnham are excited about the programming for Regionals. When Sloyer saw the Regional Workouts, she thought it would be a blast, and it would be heavy. Seeing all the other teams compete in Regionals throughout the past few weekends has made her more excited about the competition, especially Event 6. “It looks like a blast to both watch and perform! It’s so unique,” she says.
Intensify’s team finishes seven of the last set of pull-ups in the 25-minute time limit. Stoneberg and Schoonover run back outside. Stoneberg flies through the last set of shoulder to overhead. “You’re done!” shouts Smith, as Stoneberg continues.
“I’m not thinking, just going,” Stoneberg says after setting the bar down.
On this sunny Saturday morning behind their box, they debrief after the workout.
“We beat Hack’s Pack,” says Burnham.
At that point, no team had finished Event 4 in the time limit. “Maybe CrossFit New England could,” says Burnham.
Without missing a beat, Schoonover speaks up. “Maybe CFI could.”