Going in to the last event, a couple of South Central Regional veterans were on the cusp of qualifying for the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games for the first time.
Bryan Diaz was a model of consistency throughout the weekend while Azadeh Boroumand rose early to the top and stayed there. Aja Barto and Jason Hoggan are headed to the Games as well. In 2nd place and fresh off of finishing the last barbell on the snatch ladder, Barto was looking to book his second consecutive ticket for the Games while Hoggan, in 3rd place, was close to making his debut in Carson, Calif.
For the women, newcomer Kelley Hennigan’s 2nd place finish on the snatch ladder put her in 2nd place overall. The third spot was being contested by four athletes — Candice Ruiz, Amanda Schwartz, Karen Pierce and Ingrid Kantola — who were all within a few points of one another.
On the team side, CrossFit Dallas Central and Bayou City CrossFit were in great positions to qualify, with three other teams all vying for that third spot on the podium: CrossFit Cedar Park (28 points), CrossFit Central Competitors (29 points) and CrossFit Waco (29 points). There was sure to be plenty of drama as the last event — a mash-up that would test strength, skill and endurance — got underway.
The last workout was grueling. Straight away, athletes were called upon to be both strong and skilled as they grappled with a couplet of heavy deadlift and several muscle-ups. If they got past three rounds of those movements, they moved on to another couplet: three rounds of wall balls and toes-to-bars. As if their grip wasn’t taxed enough, the successful athletes moved on to a heavy dumbbell farmer’s carry, burpee box jumps and another farmer’s carry across the arena before arriving at the rings again for three final muscle-ups.
Hoggan wasn’t flustered by the strong starts of rivals Diaz and Paul Smith. He overtook Smith on the second round of toes-to-bars and never looked back. On the burpee box jumps, he performed as if he were allergic to the box, leaping completely over before landing and starting his next rep. He became the first of only two South Central athletes to complete Event 6, leapfrogging Barto for 2nd place overall.
But it was Diaz’s weekend and the moment of triumph must have been sweet. After falling short on the Regional stage before, Diaz established himself as the front runner early in the 2012 competition, performing with confidence and conviction while securing his spot for the CrossFit Games.
On the women’s side, Boroumand was the standard bearer over the weekend and became a record holder after Event 6. She was just one muscle-up shy of finishing the entire workout. If any of the region’s athletes deserved the title of superhero, it was Boroumand, as she was untouchable in this competition.
Games veteran Ruiz secured another trip to the Home Depot Center after a weekend of amazing performances. Apart from a disappointing finish on Diane, she never finished outside of the top five on a workout.
Hennigan was perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend. Competing for the first time at the Regional level, the former college gymnast wasn’t fazed by the bright lights. The muscle-ups in Event 6 threatened to derail her, but she’d done enough in the previous five workouts to hold off the challenge of Amanda Schwartz. In the end, only a point separated the two athletes.
If they felt any pressure, the team of veteran competitors from CrossFit Central didn’t show it. With a stellar final performance that left their rivals for the 3rd place spot in the dust, they proved they deserved a shot at Games glory. Bayou City CrossFit was also rewarded for their excellence over the weekend and will share the stage again with CrossFit Dallas Central, the South Central Region’s best team, in mid-July. The competition will be just as fierce, but this time the stage will be grander as CrossFitters from around the globe descend on the Home Depot Center.
Jason Hoggan (15:20)
Paul Smith (16:38)
Bryan Diaz (17:03) and Jeff Germond (17:03)
Jeremy Kampen built a lead in Heat 1, with Michael Crofford and Mike Witte chasing. But ultimately none of the athletes were able to complete the workout, with Crofford overtaking Kampen on the burpee box jumps to win the heat.
In a battle of the two fittest brothers in the South Central Region, if not the world, Aaron Bielefeldt bested brother Ryan in Heat 2. Aaron Bielefeldt established an early lead, closely pursued by Zeph Littleton, but it was Jeff Germond who nipped at Bielefeldt’s heels going into the burpee box jumps. Germond accelerated while Bielefeldt faltered, and the former athlete finished in the lead, collapsing at the tail end of the second farmer’s carry when time expired.
The top six male athletes took to the stage looking to become the first athlete in the region to complete Event 6. Paul Smith was surprisingly proficient in the muscle-ups for a man his size, and he established an early lead, with overall leader Diaz on his heels. Smith and Diaz matched each other in that final round of the first couplet until the latter found himself stuck on the last batch of muscle ups. It was left to Hoggan to chase, and he caught Smith on the toes-to-bar as the bigger athlete was forced into doing singles during the second round. Hoggan powered through the farmer’s carry and then tackled the burpee box jumps with plenty of spring in his step. In fact, he jumped completely over the box on every rep of the 28. Then it was back to the farmer’s carry, which failed to slow him down. After completing two muscle-ups, Hoggan missed his third and final rep. After gesturing toward the crowd to whip up their support, he chalked up and made the last muscle up, becoming the first in the region to finish the workout, though he couldn’t surpass Chase Daniels’ world-record time of 14:54 in the South East Regional.
“I wasn’t really anticipating anything,” Hoggan said. “I was just wanting to stick to my game plan and have a solid performance. I wanted to pace enough at the beginning — I can fight for those last reps. Not having anybody on my periphery was making it a little more challenging to push myself, actually, on the burpees.”
Meanwhile, Diaz had joined Smith on the burpee box jumps, but it was Smith who completed the workout. Impressively, he repped out two muscle-ups in a row before resting and then getting the third.
“My goal was just to finish in time. I didn’t have a strategy or anything,” Smith said. “That last [muscle-up] was a tough one. It was like a gut check all the way through [the workout].”
Smith’s was a valiant effort but not enough to get him on the podium. That honor was bestowed on Diaz and Hoggan who will be fresh faces in Carson come July. Solid throughout the weekend, Barto will be making his second straight trip to the Games.
Azadeh Boroumand (17:01)
Candice Ruiz (17:04)
Ingrid Kantola (17:04)
In Heat 1, muscle-ups tripped up the women. Leah Shullenberger worked steadily and was able kip her way high above the rings to finish all of the muscle-ups. She advanced the furthest in her heat, reaching the second round of wall balls and toes-to-bar.
Whitney Welsch, in Heat 2, was the first and only athlete thus far to reach and get past the farmer’s carry, accruing seven burpee box jumps before the end. It was a commendable performance considering that she’d battled an illness on the final day.
In the last heat, and with two spots for the Games up for grabs, Amanda Schwartz sprinted out of the gates and repped out the deadlifts and muscle-ups in her first round. Azadeh Boroumand and Ingrid Kantola kept pace, but Kelley Hennigan and Karen Pierce struggled with the muscle-ups. The latter athlete, in 2nd place at the start of the day, struggled to manage even a single muscle-up.
In the second portion of the workout, Schwartz slowed down and was eventually caught by Candice Ruiz. But neither of those athletes could keep pace with Boroumand and Kantola, with the former athlete surging into the lead just as she’d done the entire weekend. She was clearly a cut above the rest and didn’t let up in this final workout, coming within one muscle up of finishing the entire thing.
“Was it a world record?” Boroumand said afterward. “No way! I had no idea!”
The workout turned out more grueling than she thought it would be. “I don’t know who I was trying to fool. I thought I was going to do all seven muscle-ups unbroken and I did the first seven and my arms were done,” she said. “I really felt the effects of the previous five events. It was a definite mental grinder.”
Kantola’s engine was impressive as she made it to the second farmer’s carry. When time expired, Schwartz and Ruiz were both on burpee box jumps, with Hennigan on her last round of toes-to-bar.
Kantola was pleased with her final effort. “It was my best effort of the weekend. I had a pretty bad day on Saturday,” she said. “This workout was one that was in my wheelhouse with the muscle-ups.”
With so much at stake in this last workout, Hennigan’s troubles with the muscle-ups did not come back to haunt her. A relative newcomer to the sport, this former college gymnast relied on top 10 finishes across the competition to book her place at the Games in July.
“I knew it was going to be a hard one and a long one, and my body didn’t feel great going in,” she said of Event 6. “My goal was to get to the burpee box jumps, but I just wanted to stay steady and fail as little as possible. Muscle-ups are actually one of my weaknesses so that kind of came out in this workout.”
In spite of a slow start — she finished 14th on Diane — the veteran Ruiz bounced back and never finished outside of the top five for the remaining workouts to take the second spot on the podium and win a return to the Games
CrossFit Central Competitors (15:02)
CrossFit Dallas Central (16:42)
CrossFit Lake Charles (23:15)
CrossFit Dallas Central
Bayou City CrossFit
CrossFit Central Competitors
CrossFit Waco’s men set the early pace and finished the men’s portion in the lead, but this workout was all about the women. With her team in 4th place and needing a standout performance to return to the Games, Jess Estrada of CrossFit Central contributed greatly to her team’s destruction of the 20 muscle-ups, after which they were impossible to catch. Carey Kepler and Estrada blazed through the rest of the workout, finishing well ahead of the pack at 15:02.
“Out of all the CrossFit skills, that’s [the muscle-ups] the one I’m most comfortable with,” Estrada said. “I knew I could get eight unbroken, so that was what I was going to go with.”
“We really had a plan with everything,” she added. “We practiced the movements. Communication was the biggest key with all of these movements.”
CrossFit Dallas Central was the cream of the crop all weekend, but on this workout and even with a stellar performance they had to settle for 2nd place.
For the women, the muscle-ups proved a movement that challenged nearly every team. A number of teams entered this final workout with a real chance of grabbing that third podium spot and a ticket to the Games.
In 3rd place going in, CrossFit Cedar Park’s men fell behind and their team never recovered. There was real drama as CrossFit Waco and Bayou City CrossFit raced each other on the final buddy carry and began to tackle the set of three muscle-ups to finish the workout. Both teams reached two reps only to fail several times on that last rep. The crowd shouted encouragement as time after time the female athletes from both teams struggled to rise above the rings. Precious minutes passed, and in the end neither team could finish the workout.
Leslie Graves of CrossFit Waco was too emotional to talk after the workout, but her teammate Katie Mitchell was proud of their never-say-die attitude. “We fought till the end,” she said. “We left everything out there, and there’s nothing else that you can ask for.
“We knew it was going to come down to the last muscle-ups for every team pretty much. We were glad we could at least get to that part within the time cap.”
As those two teams fought for that last rep, CrossFit Lake Charles and CrossFit Strong caught up, with their women able to complete the muscle-ups and thus the workout ahead of their struggling rivals.
CrossFit Central’s brilliant performance helped them overcome some adversity in the overall competition and earned the team another trip to the Games as the 3rd place finisher.
In the end, Bayou City CrossFit’s dramatic struggles didn’t hurt their overall standing and they too booked a place to Carson in July. As far as excellence and consistency go, CrossFit Dallas Central handled the weekend’s programming the best out of all the teams. If they have a weakness, it didn’t show.