Last weekend, the world’s fittest masters competitors fought for the chance to compete at the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games.
To win a Masters Qualifier
event, the competitors had to put up numbers that would impress in the individual division.
A 250-lb. clean was good enough for first—in the Men’s 60+ Division. To win the youngest men’s division, 40-44-year-old athletes Brent Maier and Jerome Perryman
cleaned 330 lb. The top cleans on the women’s side ranged from 135 lb. to 220 lb.
Jolaine Bloom, 42, matched Annie Thorisdottir’s third-ranked 220-lb. clean set in the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games Clean Ladder, and Maier and Perryman’s 330-lb. cleans would have put them in the same ranks as Scott Panchik, Kyle Kasperbauer and Chad Mackay. While the masters competitors were not required to lift a full ladder of weights at set 30-second intervals like the individual competitors, both groups young and old landed on the same max-clean weights.
The second event of the Masters Qualifier, Amanda, debuted on opening night at the 2010 CrossFit Games. It reappeared the next spring as a 2011 Regional events, and last weekend arrived as a masters event.
Forty-three-year-old Amanda Allen finished Amanda in just 4:55, which would been the fastest female time at the 2010 CrossFit Games
. Four years ago, Kristan Clever won the event in 5:04 beating second-place Camille Leblanc-Bazinet by nearly two minutes (7:02).
By asking the top masters competitors in the Open to lift heavy, perform complex movements, and recover quickly, the Masters Qualifier shuffled the top 20 in most of the age divisions. Roughly half of the top 20 competitors at the end of the Open did not hold onto their top 20 spots through the Masters Qualifier.
After the longest and most rigorous qualifying season in masters competition history, the athletes who are most prepared for the CrossFit Games have come out on top. The Masters Qualifier champions in eight of the 10 age divisions have competed at the CrossFit Games in past years, and six of the eight veteran Games competitors have finished on the Games podium at least once. No matter the challenge, the fittest manage to excel.
Congratulations to the top 20 in each age division, and everyone who competed in the Open and Masters Qualifier.
Let’s take the time now to get to know the Masters Qualifier champs.
CrossFit BRx in Miami, Florida
Shawn Ramirez ran away with the competition in the Masters Qualifier with the second-place athlete, Paul Teehan, finishing 71 points behind him. After taking first place in the Open and first place in the Qualifier, Ramirez, who turns 40 in May, is not taking anything for granted.
“I’m not about to allow this Qualifier or the Open finish for that matter to indicate what the outcome at the Games will be,” Ramirez said. “There are a lot of great athletes who have earned their spot who are not even close to their peak performance right now.”
Ramirez’s Open performance gave him a 10th-place finish among the South East’s individual men, but he will be forgoing regionals in order to focus on training for the masters competition at the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games.
“I've never felt better and more prepared. However, I recognize I'm not getting any younger and was not about to give up a ticket to the Games for a 'chance' to make it as an individual,” he said. “My focus is on staying healthy, keeping my head down, mouth shut, mentally tough and dialed in.”
During the Open and Qualifier, Ramirez’s only event finish outside of the top 10 in the 40-44 Division was the Qualifier’s one-rep max clean event, which he finished in 16th place with a 305-lb. clean.
“We all have things we need to work on, and yes, I did identify some weaknesses that need to be addressed,” he said. “Bruce Lee said it best: ‘Be happy, but never satisfied.’ I'm happy with the outcome thus far but am far from satisfied.”
1-rep-max clean: 305 lb. (16th)
Amanda: 3:48 (1st)
50 Row/15 HSPU/50 double-under: 10:49 (8th)
100 pull-ups/100 wall-ball shots(20-lb./10'): 7:34 (3rd)
Games Season History
1st, 40-44 Division, 2014 Open
10th, South East, 2014 Open
31st, 2013 South East Regional
39th, 2012 South East Regional
CrossFit Adelaide in Welland, Australia
Amanda Allen's 4:55 Amanda time would have beaten the entire women's field at the 2010 CrossFit Games.
When the event debuted at the Home Depot Center four years ago, Kristan Clever won in 5:04, just under two minutes ahead of second-place finisher Camille Leblanc-Bazinet (7:02).
"I couldn't have dreamed to do it that fast, but that's the beauty of improvement,” Allen said.
“A lot of those girls have now been around for five years and I'd expect the best in the world, like Sam Briggs, would be able to do it in 3:30,” Allen continued. “I've only been doing this for three years, so I think I'm doing OK. We've evolved so far, it's off-the-Richter-scale insane."
It's an incredible time, made more impressive by Allen's history with the muscle-up. She lost her chance to return to the CrossFit Games when she failed the muscle-ups in the final event of the 2012 Australia Regional.
With a 15th-place finish in the event, she fell to fourth overall, missing out on an individual berth. In 2013, Allen once again struggled with the muscle-ups in the third event of the Australia Regional, which ultimately cost her a podium finish again.
"In my mind, at the last two regionals, muscle-ups have cost me a return to the Games,” she said. “I can't do 10 in a row, yet—that's my goal. I've only strung seven together so far, but that's OK. Some stuff takes longer."
Allen, last year's champion in the 40-44 Division, is hoping to qualify for the CrossFit Games as an individual this year, having secured a spot at this year's Australia Regional in Wollongong. However, if she doesn't claim a podium finish next month, she will be one of the favorites to go back-to-back in her masters division having won three of the four qualifiers over the weekend.
"My sole goal, if I am back at the Games as a masters athlete, is to win it again,” she said. “All my skills are improving, my gymnastics has gotten better since I've been working with Sean Lind and my lifting is coming along. Speed is my biggest issue. I come from an endurance background so that speed under the bar is something I've had to work so hard for."
1-rep-max clean: 193 lb. (22nd)
Amanda: 4:55 (1st)
50 Row/15 HSPU/50 double-under: 11:48 (1st)
100 pull-ups/100 wall-ball shots(14-lb./9'): 7:33 (1st)
2nd, 40-44 Division, 2014 Open
5th, Australia, 2014 Open
1st, 40-44 Division, 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games
5th, 2013 Australia Regional
4th, 2012 Australia Regional
19th, 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games
3rd, 2011 Australia Regional
CrossFit Oldtown in Alexandria, Virginia
"Skilled, no longer prime time CrossFitter looking to ride the age train to the Games … a third time,” Hill wrote on his athlete profile on the Games site.
Two months and nine workouts later, Hill is heading to the Games for the third time as planned. Although he jokes that he's no longer prime time, he's exceptional in the masters division. He won two of the Open workouts (14.1 and 14.2), and was one of only two men who returned to the rower on 14.4.
He headed into the Qualifier with just three points after a third-place worldwide finish in the 45-49 division in the Open.
Having a low-rank in the Open helped offset the 32-points that he took on after cleaning 270-lb. in Event 1. From there, Hill climbed back into the top three positions for the remaining three Masters Qualifier Events.
Gymnastics movements play to his favor, and he liked seeing the more complex gymnastics movements appear in the Masters Qualifier programming.
“I loved that the brains behind the Games put a huge emphasis on high-skill gymnastics, as well as the Oly lifts,” Hill said. “In years past, we’ve seen a shift to strength, which I love, but it’s important to also challenge us with some volume in handstand push-ups, muscle-ups, and pull-ups.”
He finished the 9-7-5 muscle-ups and 135-lb. squat snatches in just 4:36 for the Event 2 win. Only one other man in his division, Mike Cook, completed it in fewer than five minutes.
Hill's Amanda time would have been competitive at the 2010 CrossFit Games and 2011 Regionals. With that time, he would have taken 12th at the Games (3 seconds behind Graham Holmberg), and 3rd at the 2011 Mid Atlantic Regional (behind Ben Smith and A.J. Moore).
“I’ve become more confident with all of the movements as the years go along,” he said. “My muscle-ups were dead on for 14.4 and Amanda. It helps that I PR’d my 30 muscle-ups (for time) in February at 2:41.”
For the last two years, Hill has made it to the Masters Competition at the CrossFit Games and finished just outside the podium (5th in 2012, 6th in 2013).
While he'd like to win the Games, he has learned that podium-focused training can quickly slip into serious drudgery.
As a life long athlete, he's now keeping it fun and keeping the mutton chops.
“I’m a competitor. I wanted to win in 2012, but I forgot to keep it fun—took it all too serious,” Hill admitted. “In 2013, I grew some epic mutton chops to remind myself (to) always be myself. I had a blast competing with my fellow masters athletes in 2013, men I now call my friends. In 2014, there are zero expectations besides having fun. I love to train, simply love it. I’ve been training since I was 13. So I’m going to train, show up, and hopefully knock one or two workouts out of the ballpark.”
1-rep-max clean: 270 lb. (32nd)
Amanda: 4:36 (1st)
50 Row/15 HSPU/50 double-under: 11:19 (2nd)
100 pull-ups/100 wall-ball shots(20-lb./10'): 8:26 (3rd)
3rd, 45-49 Division, 2014 Open
6th, 45-49 Division, 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games
5th, 45-49 Division, 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games
CrossFit Westport in Westport, Connecticut
Amy Mandelbaum from CrossFit Westport qualified for the Games as a masters athlete for the third consecutive year, taking first place in the Masters Qualifier (45-49) in 2014. She has her sights on the podium in Carson, California after two consecutive fourth-place finishes in her division at the Games in 2012 and 2013.
Mandelbaum said she likes the addition of the Masters Qualifier.
“I was happy with the addition of the Masters Qualifier this year, although the timing, given that it was over Easter weekend and just two weeks post Open, was challenging,” Mandelbaum said. “The workouts themselves were solid: classic CrossFit, Open style with a bit of an edge.”
“The addition of Amanda was brilliant, as was adding handstand push-ups, which shed light on some of the skills CrossFit expects all competitive athletes need to have in their toolbox,” she added. “I couldn't have asked for better workouts and feel that CrossFit is starting to appreciate the momentum that the masters field brings to the sport.”
Age has not defined her, she said. Mandelbaum has competed in the Open since she started CrossFit in 2010, and has earned a spot in the individual division every year since.
1-rep-max clean: 202 lb. (1st)
Amanda: 10:30 (9th)
50 Row/15 HSPU/50 double-under: 14:06 (2nd)
100 pull-ups/100 wall-ball shots(14-lb./9'): 9:58 (8th)
2nd, 45-49 Division, 2014 Open
49th, North East, 2014 Open
4th, 45-49 Division, 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games
2nd, 45-49 Division, 2013 Open
4th, 45-49 Division, 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games
5th, 2012 North East Regional (Team CrossFit Performance)
1st, 45-49 Division, 2012 Open
5th, 2011 North East Regional (Team CrossFit Performance)
Brian ‘Brig’ Edwards
Garage gym competitor, South East Region
Two-time CrossFit Games veteran Brian 'Brig' Edwards will be making a return trip to Carson, California this summer after first-place finishes in both the Open and the Masters Qualifier. With a second-place finish at the Games in 2012 and a third-place finish in 2013, will this be the year Edwards adds gold to his collection of medals?
Earlier this year, the 52-year-old former competitive cyclist did not think he would even be able to compete in the 2014 Open.
“Truthfully, I was not sure I was going to compete this year,” Edwards said. “I felt pretty beat up and run down after the Games last year and had numerous overuse injuries like tendonitis in the knees and elbows. After the Games last year, I decided I would probably not be competing this year, and for the next few months, I did almost no squatting, pull-ups, or anything that would aggravate my knees or elbows.”
Edwards, who trains primarily alone in his garage, hired coach Chip Thorndike of Strength House Performance in January for programming. Since then, he has been able to return to full training.
“It has made a big difference,” Edwards said. “I am feeling much better and not overtrained. My biggest problem is I like to train and often just train too much.”
With three first-place finishes in the Open and two first-place finishes in the Qualifier, Edwards new training regime paid off.
“I never really know how I am going to do on any of the workouts, but I do know that I do better at the workouts that leave you lying on the ground gasping for air afterwards,” Edwards said. ”There are just so many good masters that I do not take anything for granted. There are many competitors on any given day that can better my times or scores on workouts that are even in my wheelhouse.”
Edwards said he is excited about his return trip to the Games.
“I have met a great group of guys from the past two years and am excited about meeting some more new ones this year,” he said. “I love to compete, but as I have told people often, the Open and now the Qualifier are the stressful part of the process—many sleepless nights.”
“The Games are the fun part,” he continued. “I always give it my all so I can’t be disappointed no matter where I finish at the Games. I try to just enjoy the camaraderie since I do not get much of it training solo in my garage.”
1-rep-max clean: 265 lb. (12th)
Amanda (115-lb.): 7:40 (15th)
40 Row/HSPU (2 in.)/40 double-under: 9:54 (1st)
100 pull-ups/100 wall-ball shots(20-lb./10'): 9:25 (1st)
1st, 50-54 Division, 2014 Open
3rd, 50-54 Division, 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games
2nd, 50-54 Division, 2013 Open
2nd, 50-54 Division, 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games
2nd, 50-54 Division, 2012 Open
Mary Beth Litsheim
CrossFit WestCo in Grand Junction, Colorado
Mary Beth Litsheim started her 2014 season training under new coaches at CrossFit WestCo. Although Litsheim finished ninth in the Open, her incredible performance in Events 2 and 3 of the Masters Qualifier resulted in a first-place finish in the Masters 50-54 Division. Litsheim's 6:25 Amanda time was 49 seconds faster than Patti Carson Lawhorne, of CrossFit Lifetime Fitness, who is three years younger.
"As far as the Masters Qualifier (events), I like them because they allow me to exhibit my abilities and skills that weren't usually tested until the CrossFit Games," she said. "My competitors are amazingly tough ... I am thankful for them."
Although there is no masters competition at regionals, this year will be Litsheim's third year competing at South West Regional. In 2012, she finished 23rd as an individual. This year, however, she will be competing on the CrossFit WestCo team.
"It is an honor and a privilege to belong to the CrossFit community. I have had so much local support from CrossFit WestCo, CrossFit Junction, and CrossFit Vex that I feel a great sense of CrossFit love," she said.
Litsheim credits her coaches, Brian Mackenzie and Cody Burkhart, for her success.
"They have brought me to where I am at," she said. "It has been a long road."
1-rep-max clean: 185 lb. (3rd)
Amanda (65-lb.): 6:35 (1st)
40 Row/HSPU (2 in.)/40 double-under: 12:12 (2nd)
100 pull-ups/100 wall-ball shots (14-lb./9'): 11:53 (8th)
9th, 50-54 Division, 2014 Open
7th, 50-54 Division, 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games
4th, 50-54 Division, 2013 Open
2nd, 50-54 Division, 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games
23rd, 2012 South West Regional
1st, 50-54 Division, 2012 Open
1st, 50-54 Division, 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games
CrossFit BC in Vancouver, Canada
Gord Mackinnon is a hardcase: he had an atrial fibrillation in the final workout of the 2013 Open. After he finished the workout, he went to the emergency room. He missed the 2013 Games with what he described as an ongoing back injury.
“I couldn’t do a push-up for four months,” he said. “This weekend was the first time I cleaned over 205 (lb.) in almost a year.”
Mackinnon’s 285-lb. power clean was one of the reasons he’s on top Leaderboard after the 2014 Masters Qualifier. He also finished first in the 2014 Open, and won the last two events of the Qualifier. He’s been dominant in the Open and the Games in past years, winning his age category in 2011 and 2012. Now 55, he thought the Masters Qualifier was fair—but a little too easy.
“The 54-year-old ladies get to do muscle-ups,” he said, “but at 55 you lose the muscle-ups and the weights go down.”
Mackinnon pointed to the rising level of masters talent across all age categories, and predicted a future without scaling for the older athletes.
“I'm still improving. I know a lot of the others are, and we're learning a lot later in life,” he said. “My times are getting better, yet I’m not winning all the workouts.”
“Three years ago, I wouldn’t have thought 20 women in the world would have 21 muscle-ups in a workout,” Mackinnon admitted. “In 2009, Annie Thorisdottir didn’t even have one.”
“It goes to show you the masters are no joke,” he said.
1-rep-max clean: 285 lb. (2nd)
Amanda*: 3:24 (2nd)
40 Row/HSPU (2 in.)/40 double-under: 10:53 (1st)
75 pull-ups/100 wall-ball shots(14-lb./10'): 6:43 (1st)
*Chest-to-bar pull-ups and 115-lb. snatches
1st in the 55-59 Division in the 2014 Open
Qualified, 50-54 Division, 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games, but didn’t compete due to injury
1st, 50-54 Division, 2013 Open
1st, 50-54 Division, 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games
1st, 50-54 Division, 2012 Open
1st, 50-54 Division, 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games
1st, 50-54 Division, 2011 Open
CrossFit BC in Vancouver, Canada
Canada has a king and queen atop the Masters 55-59 Division. Gord Mackinnon and Susan Clarke both train at CrossFit BC, and both finished first in the Masters Qualifier in their age bracket.
Though she performed the workouts with Mackinnon, Clarke said she was in the dark about the scores of other masters around the world.
“In the Open, you can see where you fall on every workout, but in the Qualifier everyone was just picking their way through and not thinking about posting,” she said.
Clarke said she believes the Masters Qualifier is a better test than the Open because it reveals the ability to recover quickly between workouts—an asset that increases in importance for older competitors.
“I think it's an important second step,” Clarke said. “Recovery ability wasn't really tested before. If I’m going to the Games, I want to know that I’m fit to be there.”
While watching the Games in 2013, Clarke was surprised to see a competitor who was unable to perform a single handstand push-up.
“Now we know that the people going to the Games can do everything,” she said.
Though isolated from other masters competitors worldwide, Clarke said training with Mackinnon helped give her perspective. Her Amanda time was faster than Mackinnon’s, which Clarke attributes to her ability to squat snatch the weight while he was forced to power snatch, then overhead squat every rep. Her first-place finish in Event 3 was only four seconds faster than Kimberly Luber, who took first overall in the Open.
1-rep-max clean: 140 lb. (7th)
Amanda*: 2:48 (1st)
40 Row/15 HSPU (2 in.)/40 double-under: 13:39 (1st)
75 pull-ups/100 wall-ball shots (10-lb./9'): 9:24 (2nd)
*Chest-to-bar pull-ups and 65-lb. snatches
1st (T), 55-59 Division, 2014 Open
33rd, 50-54 Division, 2013 Open
Front Range CrossFit in Denver, Colorado
Scott Olson has a history of winning CrossFit Games competitions. In fact, he has won every Open and Games that he has entered since 2012.
Olson and fourteen other men started this journey four years ago at the inaugural Masters Competition in 2010. That year, there was only one division: 50+. Olson took 15th in 2010, in a group with significantly younger men.
In 2011, the Games Team split the masters into four age divisions: 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, and 60+. With a narrower pool of similarly aged athletes, Olson secured 2nd in the 55-59 Division at the CrossFit Games.
With his Masters Qualifier win, Olson continues to dominate the 60+ Division.
1-rep-max clean: 225 lb. (7th)
Amanda*: 3:25 (2nd)
30 Row/15 HSPU (4 in.)/30 double-under: 8:15 (1st)
50 pull-ups/100 wall-ball shots (14-lb./10'): 6:49 (3rd)
*Chest-to-bar pull-ups and 95-lb snatches
1st, 60+ Division, 2014 Open
1st, 60+ Division, 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games
1st, 60+ Division, 2013 Open
1st, 60+ Division, 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games
1st, 60+ Division, 2012 Open
2nd, 55-59 Division, 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games
1st, 55-59 Division, 2011 Open
15th, 50+ Division, 2010 CrossFit Games
CrossFit 808 in Honolulu, Hawaii
The 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games champion in the 60+ Division was in the lead heading into the 2014 Masters Qualifier. But she took nothing for granted.
"I'm always watching the Leaderboard," Schwing said. "I know that any of the 20 women in my division can win. They are all amazing athletes, and I'm always amazed at the growing talent in the masters."
Schwing went on to win two of the four Qualifier events, and take fifth and second on the other two.
She finished the 9-7-5 reps of chest-to-bar pull-ups and 55-lb. snatches in 4:43, which was a one-minute PR and the fastest time in her division. Katherine Stojkovic followed seven seconds behind her to take second place.
The 50 pull-up and 100 wall-ball shots sprint in Event 4 was Schwing's favorite part of the weekend, she said. Standing at 5-foot-7, Schwing is relatively tall and doesn't mind throwing a 10-lb. medicine ball to a 9-foot target. After getting through the 50 pull-ups, she tore through the 100 wall-ball shots to finish in 8:23, beating the next fastest woman by 25 seconds.
"I knew right away that Event 4 was right in my wheelhouse," she said, "so I was excited about that one. I actually love wall balls."
Her 127-lb. clean was a 2-lb. PR, beating her previous one-rep max at the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games.
“I was so humbled by the weekend," Schwing said. "Every year people keep getting better, and I keep seeing great athletes move up from the younger fields. I have to just keep working on the next thing.”
Over the next three months, Schwing will continue to train under the same roof as two-time CrossFit Games individual competitor Elyse Umeda and 2013 Games team CrossFit 808.
"I just do whatever Elyse tells me to do, and training with the team in always both intimidating and inspiring," Schwing said. "Those women! I just cleaned 125 lb. and Brandi (Richardson) can throw 100 lb. more that that over her head!"
1-rep-max clean: 127 lb. (5th)
Amanda*: 4:43 (1st)
30 Row/ 15 HSPU (4 in.)/30 double-under: 13:35 (2nd)
50 pull-ups/100 wall-ball shots (10-lb./9'): 8:23 (1st)
*Chest-to-bar pull-ups and 55-lb. snatches
1st, 60+ Division, 2014 Open
3rd, 60+ Division, 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games
4th, 60+ Division, 2013 Open
1st, 60+ Division, 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games
6th, 60+ Division, 2012 Open
Updated 4/25/14: Jerry Hill was said to be the only man in his division to complete Amanda in fewer than five minutes. This was inaccurate--Mike Cook finished in 4:53. Scott Olson was said to have started CrossFit competition in 2011, when in fact he started in 2010. His early Games history has been added.