CrossFit Central has had a presence at the Games since it’s 2007 inaugural year, when a young Jeremy Thiel walked out onto the dusty fields of Aromas, Calif. Since then, they have sent promising individuals and well-rounded teams to subsequent Games competitions, and are hoping 2012 will be no exception. With an affiliate team of Games veterans, Team CrossFit Central Competitors have their eyes on another trip to California.
Three previous individual Games competitors - Jessica Stephen, Carey Kepler and Jeremy Thiel - are all opting to go team this year. At a gym filled with high caliber athletes, this made the remaining team spots difficult to obtain.
Michael Winchester, who earned a spot on this year’s affiliate team, helped program an intensive tryout session for all interested coaches to go through. “The team was chosen based on athletes strengths and overall performance over the tryout and the Open,” Winchester says. “We set up two weeks of ‘tryouts’ (one in February and one in March) to test as may aspects of CrossFit as we could to get a baseline on where all of our athletes were. These two weeks were much more intense in the gym than usual, and really got us into the mindset of competition. The results from the tryouts were important, but not the determining factor for making the team. When it comes down to making decisions like this (determining the affiliate team), it really is a combination of ability, mental strength and stability, and personality.”
The final outcome resulted in a strong team of six and two highly competent alternates, many returning from the CrossFit Central affiliate team from years past. Jessica Stephen and alternate Crystal Nelson have both competed for the Central team at Regionals and at the Games, as has teammate Travis Holley. Winchester will go to Regionals with the team for the second year in a row.
Among these salty veterans are two newbies to the competition scene for CrossFit Central, Jessica Estrada and alternate Conner Moore. Both competed for affiliate teams at the 2011 Regionals - Moore for a fellow Austin affiliate, CrossFit Woodward, and Estrada for Central’s sister gym, Red and Black CrossFit. Both teams showed promise at the 2011 South Central Regional, but ultimately did not earn a trip to the Games. Estrada and Moore are hoping to change that this year. “I am training with an entirely new team. I am now on a team with more experienced members who have either competed at the Games as [individuals] or on the team, and have done well. I've had to step up my game big time, but by doing so, it has made me a better athlete, and a better teammate. I'm on a team with some of the best athletes in the sport, and it is a huge honor,” Estrada says.
“Best athletes in the sport” is no overstatement. This year, Central will send 2008 3rd Fittest Male, Jeremy Thiel, and 2009 3rd Fittest Female, Carey Kepler to Regionals on the affiliate team. The brother-sister duo are co-founders of CrossFit Central and have never competed on its affiliate or competed alongside each other in general. “I think it’s going to be dynamic competing with each other because we get so fired up," Thiel says. "It’s just going to amplify and magnify what we’re doing [as a team].”
Despite the team’s success as individuals, Central is honing in on working as a unit and creating synergy amongst the group. They are competing for something greater than themselves this year, and their training is amply reflecting this. “In years past, each person would warm up individually and then we would come together and hit the WOD. This year we warm up together, workout together, cool down and mobilize together. We are getting in more team workouts than normal during our training week, and there is a much bigger feeling of teamwork, focus and camaraderie than in year's past. We have come together with a single vision, and that is winning Regionals and making it to the Games,” says Winchester.