It felt like déjà vu for NorCal’s Diablo CrossFit at this year’s Games.
Reminiscent of the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games, the team sat in second place going into Saturday’s final workout this year. Also in keeping with 2011, this event determined which top six teams went on to compete for a podium spot on Sunday.
Saturday’s final event this year was what Diablo’s head coach and affiliate co-owner, Jeremy Jones, called a “conga line,” meaning all six of the athletes had to complete all the movements of the Chipper, and couldn’t move on until the station in front of them was clear.
The Diablo team was placed in the exact same lane as last year. Jones decided to embrace the coincidence and pick exactly the same seat in the stadium as he did last year. “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t stressed out,” Jones says.
In 2011, Diablo went into the final workout on Saturday feeling confident. Jones was handling the coaching and logistics for the team by himself. He was distracted trying to keep track of the athletes and staying on top of the schedule. He didn’t pay enough attention to his athletes’ nutrition. Team member, Shannon Murphy, didn’t eat enough during the day and struggled to get 95 lb. over her head on Saturday — a weight that would normally not cause her any trouble.
The entire team fell behind, and finished the workout in 37th place. They missed the top six by one point.
This year, Jones was determined things would be different. A few volunteer support staff members helped make sure the athletes ate well so Jones could focus on coaching. Instead of sending the athletes to the Diablo tent to recover in between events, Jones quarantined the team in a trailer set up in the parking lot. This kept them away from the tent packed full of hundreds of partying Diablo supporters. Finally, Jones worked with Whole Foods to cater dinners at the hotel for the athletes and support staff.
Even with all those changes, Jones was nervous going into the last workout on Saturday. He wanted to prove last year was a fluke, and his team deserved to compete on the last day.
The Diablo team chose Whitney Heuser as their anchor — she would be the last person to do the 30 GHD sit-ups, 30 deadlifts, 30 double-unders, 30 overhead squats, and 30 pull-ups. Heuser competed as an individual at the Northern California Regional. “She is an amazing athlete,” Jones says. “She was the anchor of our conga line.”
The first five members of the team went fast and hard, getting through each station as quickly as possible. Knowing she had to pour it on at the end, Heuser paced herself through the first two movements, and got a bit of a break after the double-unders as she waited for her teammate to finish the overhead squats.
Soon Heuser was on the pull-up bar. “The plan was not for her to do 30 pull-ups in a row,” Jones says.
There was a possibility she would have to do Fran the next day, and Jones wanted her to pace herself.
Mindful of last year’s near-miss, Heuser wasn’t leaving anything to chance. She started her pull-ups and did not let go. Heuser did all 30 pull-ups in a row, with the Diablo supporters in the stadium cheering wildly, counting out each rep.
Diablo took first place in the event, earning a spot to compete on the last day, where they would take third place, behind Hack’s Pack UTE and SPC CrossFit.
Jones was thrilled with their third-place finish overall, but he says the win on Saturday night was even more satisfying. “It was redemption and validation,” he says.
Next year, Jones has an even more ambitious plan. He wants to have two teams from CrossFit Diablo qualify for the Games, which would be an impressive feat in one of the strongest regions in the world.