In a year where many Games veterans are being knocked out by the regional events, new faces are just reps away from Carson, California.
This could be a big moment for Paul Tremblay and Kristine Andali.
On the first day of regional competition, Tremblay demonstrated a well-rounded base of fitness that could take him far in 2014.
He won the hang squat snatch with a lift of 275 lb., and appeared able to go higher if he hadn’t been no-repped on one attempt for catching the bar in a power snatch position. He hung with the leaders on Nasty Girls V2, finishing 20 seconds behind Games mainstay Albert-Dominic Larouche.
In a year where many Games veterans are being knocked out by the regional events, Tremblay knows he’s a few reps away from Carson, California.
Andali is in the same situation. In third place after Day 1, Andali knew the time to make her mark was today.
Who knows when this could happen again?
Phil Cress, ranked 42nd coming into Day 2, was quick out of the gates on Event 4, taking the first heat in 16:05.
Falling to 27th place after missing all of his snatches on Day 1, 2013 Games athlete Simon Paquette came into Day 2 with little hope of a podium finish. He took the lead early in his heat and won it in 11:54 with his closest competitor finishing almost two minutes later.
“I just want to have fun and still give 100 percent,” said Paquette.
While Paquette was trying to rebuild his confidence, the top of the Leaderboard would be shaken.
Before the fourth event, Tremblay had 23 points. He was on the outside looking in on rookie Alex Vigneault, who sat in first with 18 points and Larouche in second with 22.
Tremblay and Larouche, occasional training partners who practiced the event together before the weekend, quickly took over the lead. They were fast on the handstand push-ups, and finished unbroken along with several others.
Vigneault fell off the wall after seven reps. Seconds later, he was alone. Everyone else moved forward.
Tremblay and Larouche shared the lead until the set of six handstand push-ups. They even nodded to one another on the way back to the wall.
But Tremblay was no-repped on his last handstand push-up and Larouche capitalized. After hitting the finish mat in 10:26, Larouche returned to Tremblay, coaxing him to an 11:10 finish.
Brandon Crump tapped the mat soon after, and was followed by Wes Ng. There was still no sign of Vigneault.
Struggling with his handstand push-ups until the bitter end, the top-ranked athlete in Canada East after the Open finished event 4 in 17:49, just under the cap and 29th overall. The poor finish dropped him from first to sixth overall, opening the door just a little wider for Tremblay.
Visibly rattled afterward, Vigneault said he knew before the event that his strict handstand push-ups were a weakness, but his game plan was thrown off even more by the sheer speed of the other competitors.
“When I started, everyone was going at a crazy pace,” he said. “I missed my first handstand, so after that I started again until I reached seven and came down. I saw that everyone was unbroken at that point. It just went to my head.”
Tremblay is fully aware of his tenuous position. He started Day 2 in a podium spot, and ended in a better one. But it’s not over yet.
“Now it’s a game of staying in a good position—just be consistent,” said Tremblay. “I had zero expectations coming in because anything can happen. There are a couple of guys out of contention—that’s the game. I just have to step up and seize the opportunity.”
Event 4 Results
1. Albert-Dominic Larouche (10:26)=
2. Paul Tremblay (11:10)
3. Brandon Crump (11:23)
After his bomb out on Event 1, Paquette began to climb out of last place on Day 2. By Event 5, he was in the second heat, and his rapid climbs made it obvious: this is a man who expected to go back to Carson, California. He finished in 4:19.
Cedrick Bernier’s 3:54 stood as the fastest time until the final heat. But the leadership race was still open—Larouche had 23 points, Tremblay 25 and Pascal Baillargeon 35—and the competitors were wired for an all-out sprint.
Vigneault had fallen from first to sixth on the last event alone, and even Jeff Larsh in 13th was an outside threat. Nerves were so tightly wound that athletes were warned twice about false starts. There was more on the line than Nanos, to say the least.
Vigneault, with something to prove, sprinted through a full round in less than 15 seconds. Larouche and Vigneault stayed abreast, stride-for-stride through the first four rounds, trailed by Baillargeon, who was within striking distance of his first podium finish ever.
Crowd noise rose as Larouche pulled chalk from his pocket and dusted up during sprints. In an event where every second counts, the veteran knew every advantage was important.
In sync, Vigneault and Larouche dove for the rope in the eighth round. In the ninth, Vigneault sped up down the lane to the rope, but Larouche’s massive jump to the rope caught him up.
Visibly laboring, Vigneault pushed it all out on the final run, while Larouche fell about 10 paces back. Vigneault finished in 3:56, Larouche in 4:00. Vigneault, it seemed, wasn’t ready to be counted out yet.
Tremblay sprinted hard to finish in 4:40, in fifth behind Patrick Vellner (4:14) and Baillargeon (4:28).
Baillargeon, who moved into third place today, said tomorrow’s events play to his strengths.
“Chippers usually go very well for me,” he said, adding that he’s spent a lot of time practicing pull-ups this year.
With Tremblay, Baillargeon and Vigneault chasing, Larouche sits in first overall. Though it’s a familiar position, he’s not comfortable yet.
“I feel good because this is the plan, but I have to keep first place, and I’m not slowing down,” he said. “I don’t want people to catch up with me. I don’t feel secure. I’m going one workout at a time—it’s not over ‘til it’s over. You saw what happened last week in Canada West.”
Event 5 Results
1. Cedrik Bernier (3:54)
2. Alex Vigneault (3:56)
3. Camill Leduc (3:58)
1. Albert-Dominic Larouche (27)
2. Paul Tremblay (40)
3. Pascal Baillargeon (46)
4. Alex Vigneault (49)
5. Patrick Vellner (61)
6. Charles Felx Leduc (66)
7. Kyle Cant (67)
8. Daniel Latour (73)
9. Tommy Snarr (77)
10. Brandon Crump (81)
Rachael DeYoung kicked off Event 4 finishing first in her heat. Entering the day ranked 40th, DeYoung’s 14:23 was almost six minutes faster than the next best in her heat.
As the afternoon lengthened, event times shortened. Emmanuelle Blais took the second heat in 11:41; Annie-Pier Côté took the third with 11:20.
Denae Brown’s record time of 9:06 seemed within reach for Letendre and Leblanc-Bazinet, who were to follow.
There were four siblings in the final heat: Jenine and Kristine Andali, and Ericka and Michele Letendre.
Michele Letendre’s shorter arms got her off the wall faster than Leblanc-Bazinet, and the crowd roared in support. Leblanc-Bazinet had to split up her first set of front squats, and both Letendre sisters hit the burpees with Kristine Andali in the lead.
Leblanc-Bazinet passed everyone on the burpees and ran back to the wall first. Letendre and Andali finished the second round of handstand push-ups unbroken to pass Leblanc-Bazinet, and sought to build a lead before Leblanc-Bazinet joined them on front squats.
Letendre moved five reps ahead by the end of the second round, and Andali slipped to fourth behind Maude Charron and Leblanc-Bazinet.
Letendre continued to build her lead with more unbroken handstand push-ups, gently nudged a judge out of her way, and started her front squats while Leblanc-Bazinet increased her pace.
They were side-by-side when rolling their barbells forward to the “6” on the floor. Each raced through the next set of front squats and burpees, and sprinted back to the wall for the final set of handstand push-ups, knowing an event record was within reach.
Off the wall in 8:25, Leblanc-Bazinet had less than 40 seconds to break the event record. Letendre followed about nine seconds behind. Leblanc-Bazinet broke the record in 8:52 with Letendre clocking in 8:59.
Andali finished in 9:45, which was among the fastest times in the world.
“I’m up against two of the best in the world,” Andali said. “They are amazing athletes and it’s hard to keep up. If I finish third, I will be 100 percent happy.”
Leblanc-Bazinet said part of her strategy was to go fast on the burpees.
“I just know that no one likes to do burpees, so I was like, ‘I’m gonna be the one to go fast,” she said.
Last year at regionals, she set two world records. Despite the possibility of a third, she doesn’t want to get ahead of herself.
“I’m not going for any records, to be honest. I just want to win the workouts, so I stick to my plan,” she said.
Letendre said having Leblanc-Bazinet next to her helped push the pace.
“I had a game plan, and I couldn’t deter from it. Everything went according to plan,” she said.
But as she said yesterday, the best-laid plans go out the window on Saturday night.
Event 4 Results
1. Camille Leblanc-Bazinet (8:50)
2. Michele Letendre (8:57)
3. Kristine Andali (9:44)
The International Centre was buzzing with Sam Briggs’ incredible 4:31 in the rope climb/sprint event all day. When the Canada East women took the floor, fans couldn’t help but compare.
Kristine Hatfield, a recreational rock climber, took an early lead in the first heat but struggled to keep her grip. Fréderique Bordeleau kipped to the top of her final rope climb with less than a minute remaining, then sprinted to the end, slamming her marker on the mat with 30 seconds remaining in the cap. She was the only one to finishe in the heat.
Andi Sadowski led the second heat for the first four rounds, but Marie Laurence Leclair kept a consistent speed on her climbs to finish in 8:02, and Sadowski fell back to finish at 8:37. Leclair’s time would stand through the third heat, where several women were no-repped on their climbs.
The gap between regional elites and Games-level athletes seemed broad when Letendre and Leblanc-Bazinet took the floor. Eager to show she belonged at the top level, Andali stood to Leblanc-Bazinet’s right. Letendre stood to her left. The three pushed one another to three of the best scores in the world in Event 4, and Event 5 would be no different.
None of the top five women kipped their first three rope climbs, a sign the event would be over quickly. While Andali sprinted out front, Letendre and Leblanc-Bazinet paced themselves at a slow jog between rope and sprint marker. Andali soon settled into the same pace, eyeing Letendre and likely considering the single point separating them in the standings.
Letendre began to slow on the sixth round, but Leblanc-Bazinet didn’t pause, moving just fast enough to stay ahead. Letendre and Andali battled for second, every point now more important than either had earned before.
Leblanc-Bazinet finished in 5:39, with Andali in 6:17 and Letendre in 6:20. Andali and Letendre will start tomorrow in a tie.
“I’ve never had to fight this hard to win every workout,” said Leblanc-Bazinet. “The girls are very impressive now. People used to say that Canada East was maybe an easier region. I really doubt that anyone thinks that this year.”
Letendre, who is tied in points with Andali but sits in second in the tiebreaker, is not used to having someone this close.
“It’s something I haven’t felt in a long time here,” she said, “I’m up for the challenge.”
Event 5 Results
1. Camille Leblanc-Bazinet (5:39)
2. Abigail Guerro (5:40)
3. Renee Martin (5:52)
1. Camille Leblanc-Bazinet (6)
2. Michele Letendre (18)
3. Kristine Andali (18)
4. Abigail Geurrero (21)
5. Renee Martin (46)
6. Maude Charron (47)
7. Jessica Cote-Beaudoin (47)
8. Marie-Emilie Perreault (56)
9. Ericka Letendre (60
10. Jenn Lymburner (62)
As in 2013, the top spots on Saturday night belong to Leblanc-Bazinet and Larouche. But unlike last year, second place in both categories is far from certain.