It just wouldn’t be the Canada West Regional without a little hockey.
Last year’s Regional was actually held in a hockey arena, while the 2012 edition is inside the magnificent Richmond Oval, built to house the long-track speed skating events of the 2010 Winter Olympics. The ice where Shani Davis won gold in the men’s 1,000 meters is long gone, and more than 215,000 square feet of space is now filled with two hockey rinks, eight basketball courts, a 200-meter track — and CrossFit.
It was so very Canadian that Angie Pye was doing handstand push-ups while a Zamboni was coating the ice across the mammoth facility.
The challenging couplet Diane opened the individual competition, forcing strong athletes to move their body weight efficiently and smaller athletes to muscle through high-rep deadlifts.
Mike Fowler and Brett Shillington contributed times to the overall top 10 from the early heats, but it was Heat 4 that produced the best numbers of the day by far.
Jason Cain, who won the Canada East Regional last year, destroyed the workout in 2:11, but actually took almost 20 seconds to get his final handstand push-up. He was hoping for a sub-2-minute time, but had to settle for beating the rest of the field by 30 seconds.
Jeremy Meredith, whose best time on Diane is about 1:51, was second in 2:41. After the event he said he found the wall a little sticky, which slowed him down on the handstand push-ups. He hoped for a time near the 2-minute mark but was closer to three. Still, the burly Games athlete from CrossFit Vernon broke into a great big smile when asked if he was looking forward to moving big weight on hang cleans in Event 2: “Yeah, man.”
Steve Howell was 3rd in 2:55, while Joey Lutz was also just under 3 minutes. Lucas (Teen Wolf) Parker, the defending champion from last year’s Regional, was 5th with 3:13, but looks poised to win best beard for the second year in a row.
With one event down, Cain, Meredith and Howell are on top, and the 168-pound Cain knows he’ll be in tough in Event 2 – a triplet of rowing, pistols and heavy hang cleans.
“Rowing is more of a big-man thing, and 225-pound hang cleans is more of a big-man thing, but I’m good at pistols,” he said.
In opening the women’s heats, it was age and youth leading the way. Sally-Anne Hickin won Heat 1 in 5:11, while Karissa Rempel, a 15-year-old former gymnast, won Heat 2 in 4:45.
Heat 3 was packed with racehorses including last year’s Games competitors Angie Pye and Alicia Connors. Pye raced Jolaine Bloom to the wall on the round of 9, but it was Bloom who came out ahead, finishing her last rep at 2:46.
Bloom was particularly happy to open the competition with Diane.
“I was cheering,” she said. “I’m a former gymnast.”
Connors, a two-time Games competitor who is not a fan of handstand push-ups, finished in 4:33 and took 6th.
“I’m just glad handstand push-ups are done for the weekend,” she said with a smile.
Heather Jones-Gillespie, always a top competitor in Canada West, was 2nd in 2:56, and CrossFit Vancouver’s Emily Beers, clearly recovered from an Achilles injury suffered last year, was 3rd in 3:17. Pye finished 4th in 3:26.
Bloom, Gillespie and Beers are the top three going into Event 2. Beers was a former college rower who will be looking to take a big lead from the C2 to the pistols, while Connors and Pye will be itching to get to the barbell for big sets of cleans.
Team Event 1, a version of Diane modified for partners saw teams struggling to find a rhythm on deadlifts at 455 and 315 pounds. The partner deadlifts were particularly hard when tall and short athletes were paired together.
Reed MacKenzie, last year’s Regional Director and a competitor on this year’s CFT Thunder team from CrossFit Taranis, said he tried to pair athletes of similar size and strength for the event.
When asked if it was harder to compete or run the regional, MacKenzie was quick to answer, even while breathing hard after Event 1: “It’s harder to organize without question. This is way more fun!”
As is often the case, it was the handstand push-ups that decided the event. Teams that were able to string them together blazed through the event, while those who struggled at the wall fell well behind.
When the dust settled, Team Taranis was 1st in 4:56, though their team is missing several members from the crew that took 4th at last year’s CrossFit Games. CrossFit AI was 2nd in 5:55, and CrossFit B.C. took 3rd in 6:07. Those are also the overall standings pending the results from Event 2.
With only two men’s spots in the CrossFit Games available, at least one of Cain, Meredith and Parker is going home empty-handed, and Connors and Pye look to be in for a dogfight to return to the Home Depot Center. The team portion of Event 2 was underway at press time, with the individuals recovering for what promises to be a grueling close to Day 1.
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