Parker, Takasaki, Abbott and Beers will represent Canada West at the CrossFit Games.
On the final day of the Canada West Regional, the competitors had to get as far as possible in 21 minutes in a chipper consisting of a 50-calorie row, 50 box jumps, 50 deadlifts, 50 wall balls, 50 ring dips, and then a return back through the movements.
And a couple hours later, they would sprint through 64 pull-ups and eight heavy overhead squats.
In the tightly contested region, it all came down to the final event.
As the top men of Canada West strapped themselves into their rowers, Lucas Parker was the overall leader while second place remained wide open. Seven points separated the second and fifth positions.
Tyson Takasaki was first to jump off the rower, aiming to complete the event under the time cap and move up in the standings.
Joe Scali caught Takasaki on the box jumps and pulled ahead. Parker trailed the two closely, jumping sideways while staying close to the top of the box.
Scali was the first to finish the deadlifts. He ripped off his lifting belt, chalked up, and began his wall balls while Takasaki still had 20 deadlifts remaining.
The crowd chanted, “Sca-li! Sca-li! Sca-li!” as he finished his wall balls. Mitch Barnard, Brent Fikowski, and Parker hit the rings at the same time, with the former two athletes trying to clinch second overall.
Fikowski’s big engine didn’t fail on the ring dips, as he kipped through them to close the gap with Scali to eight reps. Takasaki was in a close third position.
Scali stopped to breathe on the deadlifts, opening a laneway for Fikowski. Meanwhile, Takasaki, Parker, and Barnard continued to fight for third, starting their deadlifts as the two leaders were into the set of 30s.
Fikowski took the lead the lead with only three reps of the deadlift left for Scali, then pulled further ahead when Scali was no-repped three times in his first 10 jumps.
With three minutes left on the clock and the end in sight, Fikowski ripped off his shirt and hit the rower. Scali joined him 20 seconds later, trying to overtake him or at least become the fourth man worldwide to finish the event.
Fikowski stepped onto the finishing mat with arms in the air, becoming the first Canada West athlete to finish, 39 seconds under the time cap. Scali, with a grimace, powered through his last few strokes in an attempt to finish before the cap, but finished with 49 calories. He collapsed onto the floor, feet still strapped in. Jonathan Gibson, who finished the Open at the top of the Canada West leaderboard, took third in the event—his best finish of the weekend. Parker’s fifth place didn’t hurt him; his lead was secure.
“With how the workout was set up, I was very aware and I was keeping an eye on Parker, Takasaki, and Scali, and knew where they were the whole event,” Fikowski said after winning the event. “I paced the first half – I intentionally saved some energy for the deadlifts and box jumps in the end.”
“I saw Brent (Fikowski) pulling ahead on the box jumps, but I was starting to go blurry, so my goal was just to make it through them,” Scali said. “I wish I had pushed harder on the box jumps so that I could’ve made it to the mat at the end.”
Event 6 Results
1. Brent Fikowski (20:21)
2. Joe Scali (21:01)
3. Jonathan Gibson (21:15)
With just eight points separating first through fourth heading into Day 3, two tickets to Carson hung in the balance as the fierce females of Canada West aimed to clench the top two spots and make their first trip to the Games.
Before the third heat, no athletes had come close to finishing under the time cap. As the women began the grueling workout, Emily Beers, a former rower, used a noticeably different technique than the rest of the field, pulling long, slow strokes from the start.
Taryn Romanowich, who placed fourth at the Canada West Regional in 2013, was first off the erg, followed by Livett, who finished third last year.
Different strategies were obvious, with chosen rest periods and technique potentially being the difference for some of these athletes vying to qualify for the Games.
Livett completed her box jumps using an interesting technique: landing on her toes, rolling to her knees, and stepping to the ground one foot at a time.But it was Alex Parker who would reach the deadlifts first. Wearing no belt, she built a steady lead over the pack with Whitney Darchuck and Emily Abbott her closest concerns.
First through the wall balls, Parker broke her ring dips into sets of two and three. As Abbott and Darchuck joined her on the rings, the three athletes squirmed as they worked through their reps.
Darchuck was first to the second set of wall balls, with Abbott trailing and Parker shaking her arms out, still stuck on the rings.
Abbott and Darchuck, in the middle lanes, continued through to the deadlifts, see-sawing for the lead, their faces straining with each rep.
But just as she did on the ascent of the ladder, Parker gained ground quickly, catching up to the two leaders, causing Darchuck to glance over frequently to check her position as they moved onto the box jumps.
With just over a minute to go, the three athletes tried to tally as many deadlifts as possible before the time cap. With Abbott leading by several reps, Parker’s quick jumps helped her overtake Darchuck right before the 21-minute mark. The athletes took first, second, and third, respectively.
“I’m so glad that event is over,” Abbott said, who maintained the overall lead with her finish. “At the 18-minute mark, I was like, screw this – I’m going to go as hard as I can!”
“My heart rate got up a little more than I was hoping for, but I was still happy,” said Darchuck, whose third-place finish was enough to keep her in second place overall. “I knew where I had to finish on this one if I wanted to push and stay in the top two spots.”
Event 6 Results
1. Emily Abbott (22:12)
2. Alex Parker (22:30)
3. Whitney Darchuck (22:38)
Don’t call it a miracle.
When Event 7 began, Emily Beers sat in fourth, and Tyson Takasaki was six points back. For either to qualify for Carson, everything would have to go right.
The men’s field was led by frequent frontrunner Lucas Parker with 17 points. But for the next three athletes—Brent Fikowski in second with 30 points, Joe Scali with 31, and Tyson Takasaki with 36—it was almost like starting over.
A win for Scali in Event 7 would mean a ticket to the Games. Fikowski needed only a third-place finish to punch his ticket. Takasaki needed to beat Fikowski by at least six points.
Athletes wore their anxiety like a weight vest: hunched, they marched nervously to their starting blocks, shaking arms and legs in the last moments before “3,2,1 … Go!”
The crowd drew silent.
The men jumped onto the rig and started cycling butterfly pull-ups. With 64 consecutive pull-ups within reach of some of the competitors, fans waited to see if anyone would drop before finishing.
Scali was the first to drop, spurring his fans to pick up their chanting.
Takasaki stayed on the rig. Although many believed he’d lost his grip on the podium, he didn’t lose his grip on that bar, and bolted to the overhead squat bar early.
Takasaki snatched the 205-lb. barbell, and went unbroken through the eight overhead squats. Leaping to the mat, he punched his fist in a powerful uppercut, roaring.
Then he turned to watch. And count.
Lucas Parker missed his first overhead squat, but he kept his composure. He power snatched the barbell and started squatting. Thirty seconds after Takasaki, Parker reached the finish mat.
Eight seconds later, Gillis and Cassibo tied at 2:33. Then Cain, Carlin and Limbert.
After struggling with the 205-lb. overhead squats, Fikowski finally staggered forward to stand up with his final squat. He reached the finish mat at 3:07, and collapsed. He knew.
Five minutes later, the results became official, and the crowd from CrossFit 204—who were obviously hitting ‘refresh’ on their browser—broke into cheering ahead of the announcement: Takasaki will return to Carson.
“It feels amazing to make it back to the Games – I was weeping like a little girl when I found out I finished second,” Takasaki said. “It has been so close all weekend – any mistake can now hurt you in this region.”
Parker, who finished first overall after a dominating performance all weekend, is off to Carson to compete in his fourth Games.
“Emotionally, it was a roller coaster ride,” Parker said. “There was a lot of pressure this weekend. I had some good performances and then some performances I wasn’t super pleased with, but the end result was what I was after.
“(The Games) are gonna be a lot of fun, and I’m super excited to put in my best performances yet for the season,” Parker added.
Event 7 Results
1. Tyson Takasaki (1:53)
2. Lucas Parker (2:24)
3. John Gillis (2:32)
4. Mark Cassibo (2:33)
5. Jason Cain (2:40)
6. Zach Carlin (2:42)
7. Terrence Limbert (2:45)
8. Brent Fikowski (3:07)
Off to a quick start with the energy of the crowd building, the women butterflied through the pull-ups, some opting to break them up early. Beers stayed in the zone, looking strong and composed.
Darchuck was first off the bar at 1:48, with just eight 135-lb. overhead squats separating her from a berth to Carson.
Despite her lead, she struggled with each squat, stumbling forward and sideways with the barbell. Brittany Brown suddenly broke from the pack, whipping through the squats and taking the heat in 3:04. Livett was next. Though Beers was last of the four to reach the barbell, she managed the overhead squats unbroken to finish third in the event. Her weekend was done.
Crossing the line, Beers congratulated Brown and Livett. She didn’t start counting the reps of her competitors, and waited for the chips to fall where they may.
In the minutes immediately after the event, the scorekeepers crunched the numbers. Abbott’s performance was enough for her to maintain the lead. Beers would see her name beside the number two, just two points ahead of Parker, who was a part of CrossFit Calgary’s team that lost by one point at regionals last year.
“Right before the event, I thought to myself – now’s the time for miracles,” Beers said. “I was super relaxed because I basically thought I didn’t have a chance anymore. I knew it was a strong event for me, so I enjoyed the moment.”
Although she was excited to qualify, Beers admits she is “scared shitless” about competing with the world’s fittest women.
“I’m glad I made it but now I have to change up my mindset to want to compete there,” Beers said.
Abbott will be competing at the Games for her first time.
“It’s pretty surreal – I’m in shock right now,” Abbott said after the results came out. “The whole weekend was amazing. The workouts showed my weaknesses, so I know what to work on before the Games – definitely gymnastics.”
“I’m very excited about the experience and just being around all those amazing ladies that I’m used to watching on the Internet.”
Event 7 Results
1. Brittany Brown (3:04)
2. Erica Livett (3:24)
3. Emily Beers (3:31)
Parker, Takasaki, Abbott and Beers will join Team Taranis and the Centaurs in Carson. Veteran and rookie Games competitor alike will resume their training with newfound respect for “constantly varied.”
If the Canada West Regional gave any hints about the Games events to come, it’s this: Good enough isn’t good enough anymore.
Top 10 Men
1. Lucas Parker (19)
2. Tyson Takasaki (37)
3. Brent Fikowski (38)
4. Joe Scali (47)
5. Zach Carlin (51)
6. Mitch Barnard (71)
7. John Gillis (89)
8. Steve Howell (101)
9. Jason Cain (102)
10. Mark Cassibo (104)
Top 10 Women
1. Emily Abbott (44)
2. Emily Beers (51)
3. Alex Parker (53)
4. Erica Livett (53)
5. Jenn Webber (57)
6. Whitney Darchuk (60)
7. Chelsea Miller (62)
8. Brittany Brown (68)
9. Christina Verhagen (74)
10. Jayde Quilty (85)
View the Canada West Regional in Photos