Known as the toughest day of the 2013 Regional Competitions, Saturday asks the competitors to suffer through 100 wall ball, 100 chest-to-bar pull-ups, 100 pistols, and 100 dumbbell snatches in the morning, and go on to sprint through heavy deadlifts and tall box jumps in the afternoon.
This morning over 4,000 fans packed the stands and pressed against the barricades at the 2013 Central East Regional in Columbus, Ohio.
With fans traveling from far and wide to watch some of the world’s fittest athletes compete, the 2013 Central East Regional is the biggest competition yet.
“There's so many more people here than last year,” Tony Lane said. “We are almost out-growing this building!"
The Central East, after all, is the home of two past CrossFit Games champions and several top competitors.
Rich Froning Jr. has given the fans their money’s worth as he effortlessly sealed his third consecutive win. Claiming that he never practiced Event 4, Froning sent chills down the competitors spines as he tore through the 400-reps in 19:05.2. His performance not only eviscerated the other men at the Central East Regional, it killed the times of the winners at all previous Regionals. Froning set a new Event 4 Record, beating Jason Khalipa’s time by 1:10.
But Froning isn’t a one man show. The top 12 men on Event 4 turned in times that would have won at other Regionals.
On the women’s side, Event 4 came down to a rep-for-rep race between two women, but not the women you might expect. This year, veteran CrossFit Games competitors Lindsey Smith and Michelle Kinney are chasing newcomers Jennifer Smith and Lindy Wall.
The change in leadership isn’t only surprising the fans. The current overall leader, Jennifer Smith, is surprised by her current standing.
With four Events down, some competitors have already swallowed too many points to have a chance at the qualifying spots, but the race is far from over.
Over the last three weeks and 13 Regionals, only 11 women have completed all 400 reps of Event 4 within the 25-minute time cap.
The difference between the top and the bottom isn’t always strength or speed; in some cases, it’s simply the will to persevere. Collegiate gymnast and former Team SPC CrossFit Sam Heydlauff seemed weightless on the pull-up bar, her butterfly pull-ups elegant and consistent while her competitors dropped off the bar in singles and doubles.
But like Lisa Shiu, she neglected to tape her hands. By her last 10 reps, she was also reduced to singles, allowing Lindsey McDuffie, 2012 5th-place Regional finisher, to drop from the bar for the last time take the lead.
It looked like she might become the first woman of the day to finish, with two and a half minutes left on the clock.
"I didn't know how it would go because I didn't practice everything together,” McDuffie said. Her time ran out with 36 reps left on the floor.
By the final heat, the crowd was famished for a finisher and Lindy Wall was the first off the bar just after 11 minutes.
Less than a minute later, Michelle Kinney, Julianne Broadbent and Lindsey Smith joined her. CrossFit Games competitor Heather Welsh, remained at the rig with newcomer Alyssa Ritchey.
With half the workout and half the time remaining, the shift in the atmosphere was palpable. Screams erupted and the crowd started to believe that competitors would finish the Event.
Breaking only to step on the next white number, Jennifer Smith proved that she may be the new Julie Foucher. She crept ahead one leg at a time, while the 5-foot-9-inch Heather Welsh finally began her one-legged squats. She couldn’t help but look at the crowd for relief. She was alone.
With four minutes remaining, Jennifer Smith pulled from the pack, and her CrossFit Maximus fans made sure everyone knew it. Chants of “Let’s go, Jen!” erupted from the sea of Maximus blue as she advanced to her last set of 40 dumbbell snatches. With 30 seconds to go, she remained in slightly in the lead but Wall was closing in. Soon, the two were matched and went rep for rep.
"I was worried about being alone out here competing because I’m usually on a team,” Jennifer Smith said. “But being on a team you don't get to appreciate how much support you get from the crowd."
Even with CrossFit Maximus in her corner, Jennifer Smith couldn’t stay ahead of Wall. With one second left on the clock, Wall finished her 84th one arm dumbbell snatch ending the final heat in a tie of 25:17.
"I hear Smith's name when we come out and that really pushes me,” Wall said. That’s all it took to keep her moving in front of Michelle Kinney who finished in 25:21, and Lindsey Smith in 25:35.”
2011 CrossFit Games competitor Nick Urankar fell eight points outside of the cut last year. His 2012 season ended on the final muscle-ups of Event 6, surrounded by his fellow competitors.
He returned determined to do better in 2013, but got off to a rough start yesterday. For the second consecutive year, muscle-ups have been his undoing. In the final heat of the burpee muscle-ups, Urankar had to watch as Froning, Holmberg, Fory, and others finished all thirty reps in a little over four minutes. As the clock approached the 7-minute time cap, Urankar broke into the 20s while Froning coached him through each exhausting rep.
Today, Urankar joined the men desperately trying to make up ground. After splitting the 100 wall ball into three sets, and working through the 100 chest-to-bar pull-ups, Urankar was the first in his heat to make it to the pistols and the dumbbell snatches.
But at the dumbbell snatches he slowed, and let Mitch Barnard pass him. Barnard went on to win the heat in 24:07, and was the first man to complete the entire event in the time cap. Soon, Urankar finished in 24:47, 13 seconds before the time cap, followed closely by Matt Hewett (24:49).
"I practiced the parts of the workout, but never put them together for time,” Barnard said. “I did my chest-to-bars in 'ones' because my coach told me I sucked at them. It actually helped save my energy for the rest."
Barnard may have been the first to beat the buzzer, but he wouldn’t be the last. When it comes to the Central East’s top men, it’s just not about finishing, it’s about making a statement.
Froning is the first to do just that as he left the rig for the pistols in under eight minutes. He was 10 reps in before Panchik joined him. All the usual suspects followed. Bailey and Holmberg met the duo on the mat just after the nine minute mark.
Simultaneously, security increased as one of the metal gates holding the crowd back gave way beneath the fans. Standing room isn’t just at a premium in the Central East, it’s prime property.
At the 11:50 mark Froning was well over halfway through.
One-armed dumbbell snatches never looked so easy.
As he advanced to his second set of 20, the fight for second-place became the main event. Panchik tore from the crowd, split-seconds and four reps before Bailey.
The crowd erupted as Froning worked into his final 20 reps. It was clear that he would beat Jason Khalipa’s Event 4 Record of 20:15 if he continued at his current pace. As if to add suspense, Froning rested with his hands on both knees and stared at the dumbbell for a few beats. The crowd whaled and began to count down for him.
“Ten,” they shouted as Froning worked his final reps. When he got to one, he set the dumbbell down gently. Then, looking at the crowd, he walked to the finish mat. At 19:05.2, Rich Froning set a new Event Record.
As the crowd watched Froning, they missed the race for second between Dan Bailey and Scott Panchik. Panchik had gotten ahead, and went on to beat Jason Khalipa’s former Event Record by 14 seconds (20:01.1).
Bailey came in a minute and 25 seconds later to get third, but Panchik’s win put another point’s distance between 2nd overall and 3rd.
With two torn hands and an ear-to-ear grin, Panchik said he took it easy at the end.
“(I) had more in my tank at the end, but Rich had a good lead by then,” he said. “If he had been closer I would've chased him down.”
Before the Event, Panchik said that his strategy was to “Just keep movin’, just keep movin’.”
For the Central East, it’s unusual to see the returning Regional champs, SPC CrossFit, in 19th place at the start of Day 2.
“We’re the fun team,” Joe Garnes from SPC CrossFit said, appearing unphased by their current standing.
As athletes made their way down the competition floor, it looked like a one-legged square dance with athletes hopping in circles to avoid a no-rep for not completing the rep on the white number. Jared Cantrell from CrossFit Naptown Competition Team, who opened the second day in first place overall, was the first athlete in the final heat to dance for a few extra reps.
After making up ground on the one-arm snatches, he was met with his fellow male teammates who all became third base coaches desperately signaling for their females to make it home. Eventually, when their last female arrived, and remained at the pull-up bar, they stopped signaling.
"We weren't good at that workout,” CrossFit NapTown Competition Team member Anna Rode says. “Two of our three female team members struggle with chest-to-bar pull-ups.”
Just before the clock struck eight, each team had a female on the floor in the final heat. CrossFit Mayhem’s was the first to reach the one-legged squats, and though Team Jacked and Tan’s leading lady was quick to catch up, she stole back the lead as the Tennessee athlete paused to breathe just a few seconds too long.
Fourteen minutes in, all but two teams were on their final round of females. Though their start was strong, CrossFit NapTown’s last woman had yet to start on the wall-ball, frozen in place by her teammate’s unfinished pull-ups before here.
Meanwhile, the volume in the stands skyrocketed as Team Jacked and Tan and CrossFit Mayhem made for the finish, separated by only a few reps with the dumbbell.
When Team Jacked and Tan’s last woman hunched over her knees on her set of 20, CrossFit Mayhem picked up speed, one arm snatching her last and breaking for the mat at 18:50. Not fast enough to beat Hacks Pack’s 14:36, but good enough for first in the Central East.
Practice and forethought, they say, was the key to their success.
"We work out a lot together,” a CrossFit Mayhem teammate explains. “We timed the workout into splits so no one would be waiting around.”
But in true CrossFit fashion, the crowd clamored most for the last on floor, as CrossFit Joco’s final female was stopped just short of a finish on her last set of one armed snatches when time ran out.
CrossFit NapTown Competition Team entered the arena the leaders, but sit in third overall after their 14th-place finish in the morning’s chipper. Still, only two points separate first from third, after team and the team remains optimistic and anticipates a strong performance tomorrow.
"We knew it would one of the toughest of the weekend,” says NapTown co-owner Jared Byczko. “We keep our heads up and go forward. We are the most excited for the rope climbs tomorrow. No guarantees, but we will do really well on that one!”
1. Rich Froning (8)
2. Scott Panchik (14)
3. Dan Bailey (17)
4. Graham Holmberg (18)
5. Gerald Sasser (20)
1. Jennifer Smith (12)
2. Lindsey Smith (17)
3. Michelle Kinney (20)
4. Lindy Wall (29)
5. Jolene Grant (29)
1. CrossFit New Albany (23)
2. CrossFit Mayhem (25)
3. CrossFit NapTown Competition Team (25)
4. Jacked and Tan (27)
5. Indy North Black (28)