Well acquainted with the ins and outs of a CrossFit competition, Australia’s seaside city of Wollongong was primed to host the Australia Regional for a second year running.
While heavy rainfall covered Wollongong’s WIN entertainment centre, the atmosphere was anything but gloomy indoors, as crowds gathered in droves on Friday morning to watch the Region’s fittest fight for a podium finish.
If last year was any indication, former triathlete Amanda Allen would be the top pick to steal the attention of competitors and fans in the women’s division. After missing out on a ticket to Carson, California, in tragic fashion last year, Allen came back with a vengeance finishing on top of the Leaderboard in Australia for the 2013 Open.
In the men’s half, question marks lingered over two-time Games competitor and reigning 9th Fittest on Earth Chad Mackay, who has spent a large chunk of the last year rehabilitating from shoulder surgery.
With a number of new faces eager to make a name for themselves in the Region, the weekend was sure to impress, upset and excite the people of Australia and the first event was no exception.
In the end it all came down to strategy with a paced row, blistering thrusters and solid sets of pull-ups characteristic for all the top performers.
The men’s heats for Jackie were lightning fast with all four winners going sub 5:25 and the overall winner coming from the second heat. Three athletes beat former Games champion Mikko Salo’s time registered at the Europe Regional last weekend of 5:21.
During the first heat Michael Roach from CrossFit 2600, who finished 38th in the Open, set the second fastest time of the day with 5:19.
“I miscounted my pull-ups and dropped off the bar at 29 not 30. But, that’s still a personal best for me so I’m happy. Can’t do any better than that,” Roach said.
Kyle Frankenfeld, who finished the Open in 26th , set the benchmark after a rough start where his rower stopped working. However, time was taken off to compensate, leaving him with a final time of 5:16. Frankenfeld not only won the event in Australia but set a time only 6 seconds behind Adrien Tapia’s world record of 5:10 set at the South East Region last weekend.
The region’s big names took the stage in the third heat, including Chad Mackay and the Hogan brothers (Chris and Kieran). Mackay took the lead from the rower and no one was able to touch him, finishing with a time of 5:23.
“I was a little bit nervous on the rower actually and then I just kept thinking back to training, ‘I’ve done this before, I’ve done this before’ and tried to get on with the thrusters. Then, because I am tall, I took a really wide stance so I didn’t have to squat as far, kept breathing and just hung on for my pull-ups. A 10 second personal best from training so I’m happy,” Mackay said.
The final heat saw a showdown between last year’s podium finishers with Brandon Swan and Rob Forte going rep-for-rep all the way to the end. Despite falling from the bar with four pull-ups to go, Swan took the heat in a time of 5:20.
“It was fast! I don’t remember much. I remember falling off the pull-up bars, that’s about it,” Swan said.
CJ Walker withdrew before his heat causing a reshuffle.
All eyes were on the final two heats with some of the Australia Region’s biggest names going head-to-head in the workout.
The third heat saw Jessica Coughlan stage a stunning come from behind victory to finish in a time of 6:42.
“I knew the thrusters and pull-ups were my strengths and the row really isn’t, so just stuck to my game plan and knew on the pull-ups I just had to hold on!” Coughlan said.
Reigning Regional champion Kara Webb put in a blistering performance in Heat 4 with unbroken thrusters almost twice the speed of the rest of the field. However, she wasn’t fast enough to beat dual Games competitor Ruth Anderson Horrell who just pipped her at the post in a time of 6:22.
“That was the plan and it hurt!’ Webb says. “I got to the 25-30 mark [and thought] well I’ve come this far now, and it will just hurt, so gotta’ keep going,” Webb said.
It wasn’t until Webb fell from the pull-up bar and dropped to the floor that Anderson Horrell took the lead over the final few reps setting up a photo finish.
“I wanted to go unbroken in the pull-ups but I started to fatigue so I just decided I still had far enough to go that I could drop off the bar and therefore keep butterflying,” Anderson Horrell says. “So I dropped off at 19 and then did the last 11. It wasn’t quite the plan I had but it did the job.”
Amanda Allen finished close behind in 6:32 for a solid start to her Regional campaign. However, the future wasn’t so bright for Angela Kyme who withdrew from the competition due to a back injury.
The Orange Army from CrossFit Active dominated the first event of the day with CrossFit Active coming in first with a time of 13:13 and CrossFit Active Artamon winning the second heat with 10 seconds left on the clock in the 15 minute capped event.
Following the trend set in other regions, only a third of the field managed to complete the event with the fight for first coming down to a predictable race between CrossFit Active and Schwartz’s CrossFit Melbourne that went all the way down to the pull-ups with the men holding steady to finish only a couple of reps in front of Schwartz’s.
“I was unbroken in training but it’s a bit different out there. I went a bit hard on the rower and that hurt the grip a bit for the pull-ups,” Luke Khan from Active said.
New box CrossFit Active Artamon stuck to their plan to finish first in their heat with steady sets off pull-ups.
“That was the way I planned to do mine, that was the way it went,” Lynne Fitzharris from Artamon said.
After Jackie the teams have been firmly split into good and great with the final heat’s times more than a minute faster than the earlier teams.
While they were unable to compete with the top teams, CrossFit Urban Edge deserve huge props with their female competitor continuing to attempt to complete her pull-ups until time ran out.
With the top finishers of the first event completing Jackie in under seven minutes it seems the hard work is yet to come. Weaknesses are bound to emerge in the form of Event 2 and 3 as athletes tackle the tricky combination of burpee muscle-ups and overhead squats.