Two years ago, Rich Froning and Julie Foucher claimed the top podium spots at the 2012 Central East Regional. Today, the duo brought us back in time, re-creating their 2012 finishes with top spots in 2014.
For Froning, 2014 marks his third consecutive regional win.
"It's hard fought. Gets harder and harder every year,” Froning said.
Though Central East fans never tire of watching the champ do his champion thing—like taking five first-place finishes and one event record across seven events—on the men’s side, the 2014 Central East Regional was all about Scott Panchik.
In his second successive silver-medal finish, Panchik finished his third regional with one tie for first and three second-place finishes. With 10 points between him and Froning, it’s the closest anyone has come to touching the champ since Dan Bailey took second place in 2012.
A new face will join veterans at the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games. In his second regional appearance, Will Moorad placed third, edging out Graham Holmberg by just one point.
On the women’s side, Julie Foucher makes her triumphant return. After a year spending more time in the library than the gym, she reclaimed her top spot with 14 points and four first-place finishes across seven events.
In second place, newcomer Nicole Holcomb from CrossFit 812 will make her debut at the CrossFit Games in California, alongside veteran Michelle Kinney, who edged out Alyssa Ritchey by a threadbare three-point margin.
“It's another dream come true,” Kinney said.” I really value going to the Games so much, so every trip out there is a complete blessing and I just cherish every moment."
The final heat of Event 6 looked like a game of skins vs. shirts as the men in the center lanes bared their chests for the 450-rep chipper.
And for the fourth time this weekend, Panchik played cat to Froning’s mouse, never falling more than a few reps behind him. The two were the only men in the region to make it all the way through the event within the 21-minute time cap.
The Games veterans knew how to handle a chipper, pacing the first half of the event.
“I didn't want to come out too hard,” Panchik said. “I can always pick up the pace, but it's hard to recover from coming out too fast.”
When Froning and Panchik got to the rings, they turned over the tables, passing the leader, Moorad, on the rings. Froning repped out identical sets of five reps, legs crossed beneath him with Panchik not far behind.
Still, it wasn’t as though the top two had an easy time of it. By the time Froning re-visited the deadlifts, his breathing was labored and he rested his hands on his hips.
Behind them, Holmberg, Marcus Hendren and Moorad were locked in a race for third, within 10 reps of each, as they finished the deadlifts and moved onto their boxes.
But by then, the arena was screaming for Froning, who had reached his rower just before the 18:30 mark. Panchik followed just after, Froning pulling his last calorie at 20:29 and Panchik at 20:53.
Third place went to Tristan Moore out of the third heat, with a time, after penalty, of 21:12.
As Froning walked off the floor after his fifth first-place finish, he tossed the shirt he never sullied to his fans in the stands.
Though Moorad’s tie for 11th in the event shrunk the gap between him and Holmberg, he said he appreciated the competition.
“That’s the way it's supposed to be, good athletes make each other better,” Moorad said.
Event 6 Results
1. Rich Froning (20:29)
2. Scott Panchik (20:53)
3. Tristan Moore (21:12)
A champion fell in the final event.
Though Holmberg set a new event record in the lightning round of pull-ups and overhead squats with a time of 1:42, it wasn’t enough to seize the third podium spot.
When the final heat of men entered the arena for the final event, the crowd raised the roof. Though they had already witnessed six events worth of world-class fitness, the spicy couplet of pull-ups and heavy overhead squats was a treat no one wanted to miss.
Though no competitor could do the pull-ups unbroken, Froning dropped just a split-second before Holmberg. Still, the floor was chaos as all the top men sprinted to their barbells simultaneously.
For the fittest men in the Central East, the 205-lb. barbell posed no challenge. With Holmberg, Gerald Sasser and Froning going unbroken on the overhead squats, the event came down to who wanted it most.
His jaw set in determination, Holmberg cast his bar aside after eight reps and tore for the mat, finishing in 1:42 and ending his season in a blaze of glory.
Sasser and Froning followed one and two seconds later.
Event 7 Results
1. Graham Holmberg (1:42)
2. Gerald Sasser (1:43)
3. Rich Froning (1:44)
CrossFit Games Qualifiers
1. Rich Froning (10)
2. Scott Panchik (20)
3. Will Moorad (38)
Foucher shows no pain. At least, not until her work is done.
"Just think how bad you want it and how bad you want to get back to the Games,” Foucher said of pushing through pain.
In her third event win of the weekend, she broke Sam Brigg’s previous event record by 14 seconds, with a time of 21:08. Only when the clock had stopped did her body betray the toll the chipper had taken, as she stood hunched over the damper.
Like the men before her, Foucher paced the event.
Six lanes to her right, Danielle Sidell was the first to break from the pack.
Though Sidell stands six inches taller than 5-foot-4 Foucher, the pair finished the wall-ball shots within seconds of each other. But with a compact, explosive kip, Foucher pulled ahead in the dips, turning around to go back through the chipper at 9:49.
In her second round of wall-ball shots, Foucher was the perfect image of symmetry. Though she needed a small jump at the top of each rep, her feet landed exactly where they left.
While Foucher finished her box jumps just after the 18-minute mark, Kinney finished her wall-ball shots, leaving 4-foot-11 Ritchey—in third place overall with an eight-point lead over Kinney before the event—to struggle at her wall-ball station.
The crowd whooped as Foucher made her final strokes on the erg, the muscles in her back rippling with effort. When clock ran out after her seventh calorie, she let the handle fly.
Though Kinney beat Ritchey in the event, taking seventh place to Ritchey’s tie for 12th, Ritchey remained in the third place after Event 6. But Ritchey was not planning on relinquishing her ticket to California without a fight.
"I'm prepared,” Ritchey said after the event. “I'm not at all sore up in my top. I practiced it at the gym and I can hold 135-lb. overhead squat because my one-rep max is 215 lb. overhead … thank God it's the last one. It's a lifesaver."
Event 6 Results
1. Julie Foucher (21:08)
2. Danielle Sidell (21:25)
3. Jennifer Smith (21:38)
One rep can make or break a trip to the Games.
Such was the case for Ritchey. In her second regional since she started CrossFit two years ago, she held the third-place spot throughout the first six events.
Then came the overhead squat.
The 64 pull-ups were almost a warm-up for the former gymnast, and as a record-holding Olympic weightlifter, the 135-lb. barbell didn’t scare her either. Dropping from the rig and racing to her barbell step for step with Foucher and Kinney, she cleaned the weight, popped it to her back and jerked it overhead.
But as the crowd roared with glee when Foucher and Kinney went unbroken, rep-for-rep, Ritchey went sideways on her squat. She held onto the weight, but her speed couldn’t compete with Foucher’s and Kinney’s, who hit the mat at 2:04 and 2:09, respectively.
Ritchey’s last squat ended up not being her last. It wasn’t deep enough,and her judge crossed her arms while her bar crashed to the floor. The no-rep gave five more athletes the time they needed to hit the mat before Ritchey.
Though Ritchey’s eighth-place finish in the final event knocked her down to fourth place overall, just three points behind Kinney, Ritchey gave her fans a grin, flashing her guns, as the Jumbotron broadcast it to the crowd for the final time at the 2014 Central East Regional.
Event 7 Results
1. Julie Foucher (2:04)
2. Michelle Kinney (2:09)
3. Nicole Holcomb (2:11)
1. Julie Foucher (14)
2. Nicole Holcomb (25)
3. Michelle Kinney (52)