Day 2 of the 2014 Australia Regional will be remembered as a record-breaking day with event records falling across all three divisions, many in spectacular fashion. The commentators were quick to alert the crowd as athletes raced to beat the best times from last weekend's regionals.
By lunchtime, the excitement, enthusiasm and volume of the crowd had noticeably increased at the WIN Entertainment Centre, with the venue nearing its 5,000-seat capacity. Former regional competitor, Matt Healey continued to pour his excess energy into stirring up the crowd as part of the commentary team, claiming event organizers were reluctant to give him a microphone again, so he'd brought his own.
Kara Webb, Denae Brown and Pip Malone all started Day 2 with 13 points. Although the top 10 remained largely unchanged, Stephanie Ortiz made a surprising climb up the Leaderboard on Day 1 and joined the previous Games qualifiers in the top-seeded heat. The relative unknown from CrossFit Adelaide earned her place after an impressive performance that included a second-place finish in Event 2 with a 235-foot handstand walk.
On paper, it seemed Amanda Allen was still in a position to work back into a podium placing, sitting eight points behind third place. This would depend not only on Allen securing very high placings in the remaining events, but also on a significant drop in performance by current leaders.
In the women's half, New Zealand supporters remained optimistic that Ruth Anderson Horrell was still in contention, however, heading into the second day of competition in fifth place, the three-time Games competitor would require an improvement in her own performance to be matched by a decline in others'.
Kiwi hopes for a Games qualifier were also riding high on Kevin Manuel of CrossFit Hawkes Bay. Manuel started the regional seeded 27th, but a fourth-place finish in Event 1 and a third place in Event 2 saw him climb the Leaderboard to start Day 2 in fifth place overall with 33 points.
Another significant shift on the men's side came from Games veteran Chris Hogan who entered the event seeded 32nd but started Day 2 in third place with 29 points. Brendan Clarke sat between Hogan and Manuel claiming fourth place with 31 points.
While the trio formed a close huddle fighting for third at the start of Day 2, Brandon Swan and Rob Forte seemed near untouchable in first and second, respectively, with eight points each. After just three events, the pair had established at 21-point buffer between themselves and the nearest competitor, Hogan.
Another event record fell early in the individual competition with two athletes finishing the handstand push-up/front squat/burpee triplet inside the previous record of 10:24.
Brown destroyed each movement, finishing in 9:06 and beating the previous Event 4 record by 1:18.
Like the muscle-ups from Day 1, the handstand push-ups were the make-or-break component of this nasty 21-15-9-6-3 event. In a taxing test of the upper body, most opted to step up from their burpees as a sort of recovery.
As the only finisher, and leader, throughout Heat 1, three-time regional competitor, Madeleine Jacques finished in a time of 15:36. Jacques had no difficulty with the heavy front squats and maintained a fast pace throughout. Unlike many of the women, the handstand push-ups appeared to be no problem for her.
“Strength is strength for me, plus I have short arms,” she said.
After a disappointing start to the weekend on Day 1, she remained positive about the experience.
“I just wish there was more strength events this year," she said. "But it's good and my gymnastics will catch up.”
A dominant leader also emerged in Heat 2 in Ashley Higgins. And just like Jacques, Higgins was unhurried, remaining consistent and strong.
Communicating well with her judge, Higgins made certain of her transitions and sprinted to finish in 13:51 and said she was under the impression the time cap was 16 minutes.
“I was thinking I had to push to make it, and then the clock rolled over passed 16 minutes and I realized it was 20 minutes,” she said. “Stupid mistake by me, but it did make me PB by a minute-and-a-half."
Rebecca Gowing finished a minute later in a time of 15:15 and Kate Stewart followed her to the mat at 15:46. The handstand push-ups proved problematic for many athletes, including Dimi Poulos who took more than 15 minutes to progress beyond the 21 repetitions.
Heat 3 saw three women rotate the lead with Jamie Greene and Ali Murdoch going rep-for-rep untouched until the round of nine, when Tia-Clair Toomey began to make her presence known.
From this point on, Toomey nudged her way into the lead more than once before the round of three where she wouldn’t look back. As Toomey and Murdoch made their way back to the wall for their final set of handstand push-ups, urgency was the difference between first and second place. Toomey ran down the stadium, while Murdoch took the time to gather her breath for the last round. Toomey crossed for a time of 12:12 with Murdoch 10 seconds behind at 12:22.
After missing last year's regional following the birth of her first child, Brown demolished the event record, taking more than a minute off the previous time.
From the outset, Brown was in the lead, coming down from her 21 handstand push-ups in just over a minute. Amy Dracup seemed certain to follow Brown rep-for-rep, but the 125-lb. front squats proved too difficult, while Brown made the bar look light. The 2012 Games qualifier went out hard and never slowed as she tore the previous event record to shreds.
“Cardiovascular is one of my strengths,” Brown said. "However, with that being said, I've been working on strength. I've had an awesome coach in Rob Downton from Raw Strength and Conditioning, and he worked with me on strength and foundation for six months. Leading up to the Open, and during the Open, I started working with Dan Williams, and he touched on building my cardiovascular. But again, that's probably more of my natural side so it was that focus on strength work and it seems to have helped.”
While Brown never looked like being beaten in Event 4, she said her performance over the weekend has shocked even her.
“It’s amazing. I think I'm shocking myself to be honest,” she said.
It was Jessica Coughlan who again went quietly about her business to sneak into second place and also beat the previous event record in a time of 10:07.
“I think that workout polarizes people,” she said. “You either like the handstand push-ups and are good at them, or you’re not. I think that’s the deciding factor.”
Dracup took third, finishing almost a minute-and-a-half after Brown.
"I did everything out of my plan and my pacing. The time was a really nice surprise, so happy with the time,” Dracup said. "It’s a privilege to be alongside those girls. You get more out of yourself being in a heat with them, it's just a really fun weekend."
Webb maintained a steady pace to finish in fourth.
Anderson Horrell had so far struggled with the intensive gymnastics over the weekend and the same proved true again in Event 4, with the New Zealander finishing in 12th.
Event 4 Results
1. Denae Brown (9:06)
2. Jessica Coughlan (10:07)
3. Amy Dracup (10:43)
Yet another event record fell in Event 5 with Vaughan attacking the legless rope climbs like a lady possessed to finish 15 seconds inside the 5:34 event record in a time of 5:18. Anderson Horrell also finished within the record in a time of 5:23.
Event 5 was the crowd’s event from the outset and the fence was packed with spectators ready to cheer anyone and everyone on the rope. Efficiency and a smart technical game plan seemed to be the key to an optimal performance.
In Heat 1, Melissa Booton looked set to comfortably complete the 10 rounds, but she started to stumble in the second to last round and it was all over after that. Ex-sprinter Charlotte van Veenendaal drew most attention with her athletic experience and fine style. Van Veenendaal opted to put the pace on for the 200-foot sprints before resting at the rope until she was ready to make an attempt.
“I know my rope climbs aren't all that good, but I find the sprint easy. So better off ripping those out and giving myself time to rest before the climbs,” she said.
Unfortunately for the women in Heat 1, the legless rope climbs took their first group of victims with no one finishing under the time cap.
Kate Mitchell from Heat 2 was obviously watching the Games last year and used an effective kip to save her arms and employed the military wrap on her descents, but it wasn’t enough for her to win. Mitchell appeared to have Heat 2 under control, but she came undone on round eight, which allowed Brimlea-Jane Smyth and Tai-anne Blair to get in front. Smyth became the first Australian woman to complete the event, finishing in 7:48.
“I definitely didn't want to sprint. I didn't want to be out of breath when I got to the rope climbs. You want to be fresh,” Smyth said.
Five athletes managed to finish inside the time cap, but the legless climbs continued to prove problematic.
Heat 3 followed the trends set in Heats 1 and 2 with a bolter going out hard and looking certain to claim victory. Greene showed grit and a continuation of her good form by leading with a big swinging kip on her climbs. She was on pace to beat the 5:34 record at eight climbs, before falling just shy at the top on her ninth, at which point the crowd was invested in her victory. But her fatigue made room for Veronica Torr to take the lead. Torr put the pace on for the final three climbs to finish in 6:57.
Greene would struggle with the rope for the better part of five minutes before finally hitting the beam.
“I never really trained that movement. Well, just once, and with a way different technique. When I shortened my pulls it was much easier,” she said.
The final heat gave the crowd everything they could ask for with two event record breakers and every female competitor completing the 10 rounds within the time cap. Just like every heat before, one athlete went out extra hard, but failed to follow through with it for all 10 rounds.
Vaughan overtook Dracup early on and from then on she pulled away from the competition to steal the event record.
“I feel so happy. I was a bit nervous ... because I was sitting in 12th, and I really wanted to keep that spot in the top heat for tomorrow. I know the 50s isn’t going to be my best, as well, so I wanted to make up some places so that I could hopefully be in the last heat tomorrow,” she said.
Vaughan took some time to realize she was on track to break the event record.
“The announcements (during the event) were totally in the background, and I was like, are they talking about me? It took me a second to realize they were talking about me, and I was so excited,” she said. “It made me push that last round a lot more. ... It was great. I can’t explain it. I’ve never had that feeling before.”
Anderson Horrell comfortably took second place under world record time but the big battle came for third place with three women racing for the mat. It was Allen, who had been in third for the majority of the event who was able to make it to the mat just one second ahead of the competition for a time of 5:35.
“Kara was one second behind me and I had no idea,” Allen said. “I dropped from an unbelievable height, which is amazing given my (strapped) foot.”
Webb had staged a desperate sprint to try and beat Allen to the mat.
“I was really looking forward to that workout because it’s a fairly new movement. We saw it come out in the Games last year,” Webb said. “I was excited to test myself in this environment and they actually went really well, I was proud of that.”
In a final tension building twist, current overall number three, Malone, finished second to last in the heat, leaving everyone asking the question whether this could finally be Allen’s year.
Event 5 Results
1. Lindsay Vaughan (5:19)
2. Ruth Anderson-Horrell (5:23)
3. Amanda Allen (5:35)
1. Denae Brown (20)
2. Kara Webb (21)
3. Pip Malone (28)
4. Amanda Allen (32)
5. Jessica Coughlan (33)
6. Ruth Anderson-Horrell (36)
7. Amy Dracup (40)
8. Stephanie Ortiz (45)
9. Lindsay Vaughan (62)
10. Vicki Webber (63)
Surprise, surprise, yet another event record has fallen.
This time it went to Zeke Grove, the man that finished the Open outside of the top 48 and only got an invite after six others pulled out.
Grove has been doing CrossFit for less than 12 months, but in Event 4, where the record was 10:14, he showed he could very well be a star of the future, finishing the event in 9:51.
One of the favorites coming into the regional, Dean Linder-Leighton was the man to watch in the first heat. After a disappointing start in Event 1 and 2, Linder-Leighton has been a man on a mission in Event 3 and 4.
“I knew it would be pretty good. I have fairly fast handstand push-ups and burpees so I was aiming for around 10:15. I didn't quite hit that in the end. I need to do some hard work to get myself back up the Leaderboard after yesterday,” he said.
Linder-Leighton had an explosive start going unbroken in his first round of strict handstand push-ups and getting on the bar well ahead of the field.
“That was always the plan to only break the 15s. I knew some of the guys in later heats would have faster squats than me so I needed to go hard where my strengths are,” he said.
His class showed through as he handled the heavy front squats and burpees with ease and finished in 10:26. The rest of the field worked hard, with the front squats appearing to be the defining movement so far, unlike the women who struggled on the handstand push-ups. In classic CrossFit fashion, Cielo Marchesi did not give up and completed his last three burpees just before the buzzer.
Heat 2 had two crowd favorites in Drummond Williamson and Rory Boyden, but it was Mitchell Sinnamon who stole the show. From the first set of front squats, Sinnamon pulled away to a lead that would only increase.
“Squats are one of my better movements and when you have a coach like (Ben Schwartz, of Schwartzs CrossFit Melbourne) watching you, you don’t give anything less than your best,” Sinnamon said.
While his time wouldn’t beat the pace set by Linder-Leighton in the first heat, Sinnamon crossed in 11:24.
Grove dominated Heat 3, with the relative CrossFit novice putting on one hell of a show to put some serious pressure on the top heat. Grove went out hard and never looked like he’d be caught.
Grove went on to finish in the first sub-10 minute time for the day with 9:51, and CJ Walker finished in 11:34. Regional veteran Kieran Hogan took third place in Heat 3 with a time of 11:54.
“'Yeah, awesome, stoked with that,” Grove said. “I was pretty happy when I saw the event released. The handstand push-ups are a strength of mine, and then it was sort of about surviving the front squats after those pistols yesterday.”
The top 10 men in the country hit the stadium floor with a point to prove after Grove set the fastest time in the world. The final heat commenced with an acrobatic commando slide to handstand movement from most of the competitors in an effort to maximize their start.
Ben Garard looked set to follow Grove into sub-10 land after taking an early lead, but the handstand push-ups took their toll. The ever calm, Forte, took first place in the heat when he reached the set of 15s and steadily increased his lead for the remainder of the event to finish in a time of 10:43, placing him third overall for Event 4.
“It really went to plan. I did everything that I needed to in terms of reps and how I was going to break everything up,” he said. “Towards the end, I used the crowd to help me get through and push a little bit quicker. That felt good at the end, that I actually pushed through because of everyone yelling and screaming. I needed to use that extra bit of motivation to give me that extra 5 percent at the end.”
Swan and Porter were right on his tail for most of the event, and the pair were almost perfectly synced rep-for-rep for the last few minutes. Swan took second in the event with a time of 11 minutes flat despite being unsure how Event 4 would pan out.
"I wouldn't say I was worried about that workout, but I really wasn't sure how I was going to go. I was confident but again, not sure,” Swan said. "The aim for me this weekend is consistency and always is. That’s the name of the game in CrossFit, obviously, and I think I've done that again, finishing second behind Rob (Forte), which should place me well overall and then Rob and I both should hopefully hold or stretch our lead.”
Porter followed Swan onto the mat three seconds later. Garard would go on to take fourth place in the heat, with a clear divide between the top four men and the rest of the competitors on the floor.
Event 4 Results
1. Zeke Grove (9:51)
2. Dean Linder-Leighton (10:24)
3. Rob Forte (10:43)
Rory Boyden looked comfortable for all of his 3:29 on the floor. The previous event record for Event 5 was set by Elijah Muhammad at the South East Regional last weekend with a time of 3:33, but Boyden never looked like it would take him longer.
In Heat 1, John Templeton set an impressive time for the later heats to chase with a finishing time of 3:48.
"I knew my ability was in that workout, so I thought if I stayed with the guys that were pushing it and then when I felt good just turned it on,” Templeton said.
Linder-Leighton continued his path to redemption with a solid second place in the heat. For the first time in Event 5, Heat 2 saw the leader from the very first rope climb win the heat, with Boyden going out hard and holding on the whole way.
Boyden never appeared to struggle or rush, jumping straight onto the rope for every round, dropping from the top and stole the show.
“I’m pumped,” Boyden said. “I was just telling myself every time, 'Jump as high as you can, really long pulls,' and I think it really helped. I always tell myself not to be nervous, just to be excited. I sort of try to switch my mind frame, and make sure that everything I’m telling myself is positive.”
While a few men tried to go with Boyden from the start, it was only Joshua Santhou that could come close to him, with a time of 3:47.
“It was good, I was happy with that. I had a fair bit to do after that last workout so I thought I'd give it my all and legless was good for me,” Santhou said. “It was probably one of the better ones for me. Shorter explosive workouts are what I prefer.”
Overall, Heat 3 picked up the pace again with all competitors completed by 5:16. Walker followed Boyden’s example, taking an early lead that no one would catch, though Grove came very close.
Walker finished with a time of 3:46, but Grove pushed him to a sprint finish and took out second place with a time of 3:51, disproving the theory that it was an event for long-limbed athletes.
"Second to last rope or ninth climb, I thought it was my last one so I went to go to the finish mat and skipped ahead a bit,” Grove said. "Just taking it as it comes, nothing to lose so I'm just enjoying it having a bit of fun.”
Given the pace set in the first three heats, there was anticipation that Heat 4 would see a new event record, but it wasn’t to be.
Unlike previous heats, there was no clear leader until the very last round despite Porter going out hard. Swan and Aaron James went with him at the start but Porter ran out of steam after only three rounds.
The lead changed constantly from there on, with Michael Roach nosing ahead briefly before Newbury, ever Mr. Consistent, took the lead with three climbs to go.
“I’m super happy,” Newbury said. “I just kept it nice and smooth, and just tried to maintain my composure. I saw a couple of guys out in front in the first couple of rounds, but I just tried to zone out and not let it get the better of me. I picked up the pace in the second to last round, which I wasn’t planning on doing until the last round, but (the crowd) got me going so I just went for it.”
Newbury beat his taller competitors, including Roach, who chased desperately and finished in a time of 3:33 to equal the previous event record. In hindsight, Roach said he could have gone faster.
"I enjoyed that workout, paced it well, could have gone a bit faster than I anticipated,” he said. "I looked at the WOD and it looked appealing. I don't do many legless rope climbs but with an army background, and I do a lot of rope climbs they were exciting."
For Swan, who suffered a serious foot injury in Legless that forced him to opt out of the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games, there was no fear going into the event.
“I’ve been doing a lot of work on them because I got injured in the legless rope climb at the Games last year,” he said. “That didn’t scare me one bit. It’s an accident, it happens and it could happen to everyone, but it’s made me really confident to make them part of my wheelhouse so I’ve done a lot of work on them.”
Event 5 Results
1. Rory Boyden (3:29)
2. James Newbury (3:30)
3. Michael Roach (3:33)
1. Rob Forte (28)
2. Brandon Swan (35)
3. Khan Porter (53)
4. Kevin Manuel (57)
5. Zeke Grove (60)
6. James Newbury (66)
7. Ben Garard (70)
8. Chris Hogan (77)
9. Aaron James (80)
10. Brendan Clarke (80)
Day 2 of the Australia Regional was packed with performances that brought the crowd, screaming and cheering, to their feet. From down-to-the-wire finishes, new event records, to support for a struggling competitor, the athletes would have had no doubt that the crowd was well and truly behind them.
Surprisingly, Games athlete Chad Mackay concluded Day 2 in 19th place, more than 50 points outside third place.
The breadth of extremely high-caliber athletes in the women's division continued to make for tense viewing. While Brown and Webb seem relatively sure of earning a ticket to Carson, the rest of the field is still close enough to upset their plans.
At the end of Day 2, the top three teams are CrossFit Athletic, Tropic Thunder and CrossFit Active. The teams look certain to qualify for the Games with their nearest competition, Reebok CrossFit Frankston 20 points outside of third place.