As athletes started to arrive at the Toronto International Centre for the Canada East Regional, there was a feeling of uncertainty and instability. Who would show up? Who would compete? While most competitors focus on training between the Open and Regionals, and peaking at the right time, in Canada East, many were simply trying to get here.
Lacey Van Der Marel fought meningitis. Tina Balfe’s house burnt down last week. Jenn Lymburner was in a car accident. Stephanie Roy recovered from a shattered femur caused by a gunshot and started to train in September. Joe Johnson has Cystic Fibrosis.
All are here and ready to compete, showcasing that this event about more than the competition and more than the final rankings. Community. Camaraderie. Mental toughness.
With the start of the weekend, many believe both the men and the women’s race to be for second — who can get to the CrossFit Games with Camille Leblanc-Bazinet and Albert-Dominic Larouche.
The only thing that seems to be certain is that it’s not. Anything can happen.
The women of the first heat came off the rowers within 30 seconds of each other. Jennifer Broxterman was the first to finish the thrusters. After stumbling on her first set of pull-ups, she regrouped and finished the workout in 7:21, winning the heat.
“I didn’t even realize that I fell,” she said. “All I could think was, ‘Get on the bar. Get on the Bar. Get on the Bar.’”
With each heat, the race appeared a little tighter, building for big show. The women of the third heat all came off the rower within 20 seconds of each other. Perry Hanlon was the first to the pull-up bar, but it was veteran Regional competitor Renée Martin who used the pull-ups to pull ahead of the pack, finishing in 7:16.
Roy is returning to Regionals since shattering her femur.
“I’ve only been able to train seriously since September when they took the metal out of my leg. After every (event), I tell myself it can’t hurt anymore than my injury,” she said
One of the question marks in this heat was Jennifer Lymburner. She finished sixth in the Open, but the car accident a few days ago put a few questions in her mind.
“This weekend, I’m focusing on being confident. The accident kind of put me in a bad frame of mind for a few days,” Lymburner said.
She hoped Jackie would set the tone for her weekend.
When the clock started, Leblanc-Bazinet went off with a shot, settling into a 2:00 pace around the 30-second mark. Michele Letendre, with a strong, steady pull, held a 1:55 pace.
“I felt really nervous, but I think I did really well,” said Letendre, who finished second in the event.
Despite the build-up, it was neither Letendre nor Leblanc-Bazinet who took the initial lead. It was Sacha Adkins, of CrossFit Kinetics, first to get off the rower. She led into the thrusters, being the first to drop the bar. That’s when Leblanc-Bazinet took the lead and completed all 30 pull-ups unbroken.
1. Camille Leblanc-Bazinet (6:28)
2. Michele Letendre (6:36)
3. Alexandra Bergeron (6:58)
The first heat of men’s Jackie is a clear indication of the change that may be happening in Canada East. Out walked Chris Cristini, Christopher Kalec, Vincent Tremblay, and Mizar Fuentes-Ortega — all Regional veterans, and Kalec a Games veteran.
And they put on a show. Six athletes posted a sub six-minute Jackie, and four more came in before the seven saw the clock, including the youngest male competitor, Lucas Proulx. As if each of them had something to prove, the last two Regional qualifiers, Maxime Lequin and Chris Cristini, finished with 5:41 and 5:45, respectively. The third spot came down to a tie between two Regional veterans, Fuentes-Ortega and Kalec at 5:51.
“Here are the Beasts of the East,” yelled the announcer, as the athletes in the final heat walked out. Charles Felx-Leduc was up against Canada East’s two 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games athletes, Matt Lefave and Larouche.
The men were consistent in the row, dominant with the thrusters and fluid with the pull-ups, leaving everyone guessing who would step on the mat first. It was Simon Paquette, of Ekilibre CrossFit, off the rower first. He held a small lead over Larouche throughout the event. Larouche and Felx-Leduc faced off for the thrusters, and kept a similar pace.
Paquette hit the mat first, followed by Larouche. Tyler Kopacz followed for the third spot in the heat.
1. Simon Paquettte (5:11)
2. Albert-Dominic Larouche (5:16)
3. Tyler Kopacz (5:26)
3. Jean-Michel Reindeau (5:26)
The top five teams heading into the Regional competition are CrossFit Select, Lusine CrossFit and Equipe CrossFit Laval, with Team We Are Fitness and CrossFit NCR closely behind.
In the first heat, CrossFit Saint-Hubert and CrossFit Liberty Village started the team competition with a solid race. Neck and neck the whole way, the men faced off on the thrusters, starring each other down. Saint Hubert managed four pull-ups before RCFLV grabbed the bar. It was RCFLV who got to the mat first.
In the second heat, CrossFit Fire Power, Physics and CrossFit Urbain battled the whole way. When the men took the floor, Adam Davidson of CrossFit Physics hit the pull ups first – and did them unbroken for a time of 13:25. Afterwards, Davidson was happy with the result.
“My goal was to beat my PR. We both did.”
In the third and final heat, the top seeded teams took to the floor. All of the women came off the rowers within about 20 seconds of each other, with Brossard’s Mryiam Arpin leading the way.
The women remained close following the thrusters. It was We Are Fitness’s Jenine Andali, who pulled away from the pack in the pull-ups. The women from Lusine, Select and Laval finished closely behind.
When the men came off the rowers, it would be We Are Fitness’s Bill Thurston leading, with Select and Lusine chasing closely behind. Laval, in fourth, took the bar with ferocity in an effort to catch the top three.
But We Are Fitness could not be caught. Thurston hit 25 pull-ups before anyone else was on the bar.
“We had good expectations,” Thurston said.
Select was the second team to finish in the final head, followed by a tight race for third, between Lusine and Laval. Lusine bested Laval by two seconds.
“I did my best. My arms are dead,” Lusine’s Dany Roy said.
However, neither the second-, third- or fourth-place finishers from the final heat were able to catch second heat winners, Nathalie Connors and Adam Davidson of CrossFit Physics.
1. Team We Are Fitness (13:16)
2. Physics CrossFit (13:27)
3. CrossFit Select (13:42)