“Our No. 1 goal is to get to that final workout, and represent the Central East the best we know how — the Indy North way."
At the Central East Regional, Indy North Black went into Event 7 hoping to close a three-point gap with CrossFit NapTown Competition Team, who held the third podium spot.
“We went out there with a ‘do or die’ mentality,” affiliate owner and teammate Bryn Jafri says. “Either we were going to win it or we were going home.”
Heading into Event 7, Team CrossFit New Albany was the overall leader with 38 points, but several missed cleans left an opening for CrossFit Grandview (65 points) and CrossFit Mayhem (40 points) to gain ground.
However, squat cleans and rope climbs are what teammate Stacy Rawlings is all about.
When she took the floor for Team Indy North Black, she never looked back. With CrossFit NapTown Competition Team the sixth to hit the mat, Indy North Black’s first-place finish set the Leaderboard askew, and they stood second overall with 45 points.
“I was super excited, but it was really bittersweet because (the CrossFit NapTown team members) are our friends,” Jafri says. “(But) it’s definitely a great feeling of accomplishment.”
Regional Roller Coaster
Team Indy North Black began training for 2013 the moment they unpacked their bags from last year’s Regional. As a result, they greeted the first event, Jackie, with a respectable fourth-place finish.
“Bryn and I would do Jackie with a (weighted) vest on and a 55-lb. bar,” teammate Michelle Hernandez says of their pre-Regional training. “So then when you go and do your pull-ups without a vest, it’s like, ‘Oh, these are pretty easy!’”
While their efforts were rewarded in the first event, in the second, the team was left wanting. Despite routinely hitting 165 lbs. in practice, two of the three Indy North Black females failed after 135 lbs., and only one made it to 155 lbs.
“I’m not sure what happened, but we just fell apart,” Hernandez says.
As the men and women made the switch in the two-minute respite between Events 2 and 3, the women warned the men that something was off. The men opened more conservatively, and also fell 20 to 30 lbs. short of a normal day’s work.
“We went to Plan B because we were nervous we were going to get no-repped,” Jafri says.
Though the team practiced with a three-second hold at the bottom of the squat, he says the judging standards were more difficult to meet on game day than in training. Jafri says that after sitting deep with weight overhead for the first two reps, “they just couldn’t hold onto the bar anymore.”
Still, he says they “dodged a bullet,” finishing the first day in fifth place overall, with podium dreams intact.
The next day, Jafri’s machine-like chest-to-bar pull-ups, Sarah Graham’s expert dumbbell snatches and Timothy “Bear” Handlon’s steady box jumps earned second- and seventh-place finishes in Events 4 and 5, putting the team in third overall at the end of Day 2.
Then came the axle bar.
Event 6 called Handlon and Rawlings to the floor. They moved steadily, albeit in more sets than planned, through the first four legs of the event and set out on the lunges, determined to go unbroken. But the shoulder-to-overheads proved more taxing than predicted, and neither was able to keep hold of the bar.
Rawlings cleaned hers and stepped straight into a no-rep, but she couldn’t hear the judge and took two paces more. It cost precious seconds as she was forced to double back.
“That was something we weren’t prepared for,” Rawlings says. “It messes with you mentally.”
Their ninth-place finish knocked the team out of third place with only one event remaining.
“We thought we had just lost it for us,” Rawlings remembers. “That feeling sucks, when you know how much your team puts into something and you know you didn’t do what you’re capable of doing. It feels horrible.”
Team Indy North Black was fighting for more than just a trip to California. They were fighting for the chance to honor one of their own. Firefighter and former Indy North Black athlete Cody Richardson, who ranked 40th in the Central East after the 2012 Open, passed away unexpectedly just two days before the Open this year.
“He was a leader in the affiliate, he was an idol,” Jafri says.
Memories of Richardson and his legacy united the team as they faced their final chance to reclaim a podium spot.
“Just knowing that he put his life on the line for others and the effort he put in, you think about the fact that he’s not there to do it anymore and it makes you want to do it for him,” Rawlings says. “We all felt it.”
Before the Regional weekend, the team prepared for Event 7 by practicing heavy touch-and-go cleans and 16-foot rope climbs.
“I remember in the warm-up area, looking around, and the look we had on our faces was business,” Jafri says. “Everyone else looked a little inexperienced, maybe not as comfortable with the rope or barbell. But for our people, especially our girls, those barbells aren’t heavy …”
With a 190-lb. clean and jerk and a natural propensity for climbing, it was clear Rawlings would be the team’s anchor for this event.
“A lot of people have issues with depth, but for whatever reason (the squat clean) is a good movement for me,” she says. “And rope climbs, they just come naturally to me. I’ve never really had to try to figure out what to do with my feet.”
While Rawlings waited and watched bars bang and ropes whip, she remembered Event 6 and her nerves turned to anger.
With unbroken cleans on her first round and two-pull rope ascents, she stole the lead immediately and never gave it back. Hitting the mat first at 16.02.4, she earned the team a first-place finish in the event. This placed them in second overall at the close of the weekend.
“I knew I had won it taking off for the (final) run, I could see in my peripheral vision there was no one with me,” Rawlings says. “The greatest thing was the run from the cleans to my team, and they were all standing there yelling and screaming. It’s one of those moments I would love to go back to and bottle up.”
Team Indy North Black grew silent, gathering on the floor to pray around a shirt that had belonged to Richardson, their fallen teammate.
“We had an angel with us the whole weekend,” Jafri says. “It was almost like it was destiny, like it was fate.”
It’s about refinement from here on out for the team. Jafri says if they’re going to be successful in less than a month, they better “clean it up. We can’t afford a no-rep on anything, every second counts. That’s the game of CrossFit, he says.
The Regional Events demanded that teams work largely as individuals. Now, many qualifying teams must learn to think and move as one, in anticipation of Games Events that don’t allow anyone to hide.
It’s a good thing the team has trained that way all year.
“From day one, we trained to be a team,” Jafri says. “We met on Saturdays and Sundays and we did team workouts. Our tempo drills, our capacity building — everything was built around team.”
Prescribing heavy volume during the week and four-hour team sessions every Saturday and Sunday, Jafri believes the team needs to work on variety.
“We have three weeks to train and that’s it, so we have to be really tactical in what we choose to do,” he says. “I’ve got to play a guessing game with Dave Castro. I know as long as I put in a lot of variation, we’ll be fine.”
Variation looks like Diane with deficit handstand push-ups, butcher pushes, sandbag hill runs, yoke carries and strongman elements like atlas stone cleans and log carries. It’s actually not that much different from how they trained up until the month before the Regional.
“The whole time I was thinking we were training for Regionals, but we were really training for the Games,” Jafri reflects.
Besides odd-object training, Jafri says the team will focus on barbell complexes, testing capacity with benchmark workouts and building capacity with tempo drills. They will also practice more traditional CrossFit with long chippers that drill barbell and high-skill gymnastics movements.
“I’m kind of looking forward to some awkward movements,” Rawlings says. “Weird things like the (Double Banger) from last year. It’s about technique and strength, but it’s also about being scrappy and doing what you need to do to get it done.”
Team Indy North Black is ready to represent the Central East Region at the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games.
“We are 100 percent aware that we are not the best team at the CrossFit Games, but we feel like if we perform to our full potential, we will have the opportunity to be in the top 10,” Jafri says.
“Our No. 1 goal is to get to that final workout, and represent the Central East the best we know how — the Indy North way,” he says.