Out of 30 qualifying teams, 11 are competing for the first time at the Regional level. Meet a few here.
It was not too long ago that the CrossFit Affiliate Cup was an open competition for any affiliate to chase the title and honor of being called the “CrossFit Games Top Affiliate.” With the growth of CrossFit and the advent of the CrossFit Open, now only the top 30 teams from each region qualify for Regionals and earn a shot at making it to the Final Games.
Eleven out of the 30 teams that made it to Regionals from the South East will be competing for the first time at this level. The South East wanted to check in with a few of the teams, and find out what it is like getting ready for the most important competition in their gym’s history.
Gardens CrossFit, out of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., finished 17th in the South East’s team division. The Open standings were the determining factor as to who would make up the team, should it qualify for Regionals. Two of its women qualified individually -- Miki Carey finished 36th and Mayra Saldarriaga finished 44th. Both women agreed it would be difficult to be competitive as individuals based on where they finished in the Open, so they opted for team. Ask the men on the team why these two made that call, and they will jokingly say it is because Carey and Saldarriaga didn’t want the guys to feel bad.
Gardens CrossFit is a fairly new gym, so team members were surprised and excited when they made the top 30. “I don’t think any of us ate or slept for at least 48 hours,” Carey says.
The team works out four to six days a week. Because of the team members’ hectic schedules, they usually do two- or four-person workouts during the week and six-person team workouts on the weekends. “We feel that training together as much as possible is best, builds a strong bond. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. No one is left out,” Carey says.
The team is feeling optimistic about Regionals. “There are a lot of things that play up to our strengths, and we’re not afraid of the unknown. We practice everything. We’re good at some things, and work harder at others,” Carey says. “We try, we encourage each other, and we’re proud of each other even if it doesn’t turn out in our favor. Preparation is key, and being a week away, we feel prepared.”
As for the all-important topic of uniforms, Carey laughs at the thought of three men and three women being able to agree on matching uniforms. “Guys will match, ladies will match, and hopefully, we match each other. One of the girls will probably play ‘mom’ and lay out clothes for everyone.”
Forming the team wasn’t quite as cut-and-dry for Jeff Barnett, team captain of CrossFit Impulse out of Madison, Ala., which finished in 23rd place. “I extensively deliberated how to form our team,” Barnett says. “I even consulted Ben Bergeron, as this was completely new to me, and I figured the captain of the top team in the world probably knows what he’s doing. I considered using the Open Leaderboard, as it was fair and objective, but eventually decided against it. The abilities required to do well in the Open are not the same as those required to do well at Regionals. I knew Regionals would be heavy and technical. In the end, I used my judgment and knowledge of my athletes to form the team.”
Barnett looked for a well-rounded team, as opposed to well-rounded athletes. He did not necessarily select the athlete who would fare best in an individual competition. “Based on my research of previous CrossFit Games Regionals and championships, the team WODs are structured such that you can protect a teammate from a critical weakness if you have other well-rounded teammates available. However, you can also make great use of your teammates’ strengths even if they possess a critical weakness. Therefore, I chose a team of athletes that together can fill any void. You might consider us a team of specialists, but all possessing a solid base of strength, conditioning and skills.”
The team practices together three times a week, which Barnett says is necessary to learn each member’s strengths and weaknesses, “develop new ways of communicating,” and build camaraderie. They are feeling “cautiously optimistic” about Regionals. “We are practicing as hard and as smart as a team can. We have the potential to do very well,” he says.
Making the trip from Alabama to West Palm Beach is expensive, so CrossFit Impulse has scheduled several fundraisers to help defer the cost of the team’s trip – and the gym membership has really pitched in to help.
“Our myriad fundraisers have been a great opportunity to rally around the team,” Barnett says. “Our final fundraiser, the party with a live band, will also be a great time for all of us to come together and celebrate.”
The team will be wearing a custom T-shirt to commemorate its Regional experience. “Maybe we’re just young and naive, but advancing our team to Regionals is a big accomplishment for us, and we’re proud of it. The constantly increasing level of athleticism from Games’ competitors is making it tougher and tougher each year to advance,” Barnett says. “I am pretty sure each of our teammates will wear that shirt with pride for years to come.”
It was down to the wire for CrossFit Inception as it waited for the final results to come in to see whether it would make it to Regionals for the first time. “It was really close for us, so I spent way more time hitting refresh on the Games site than I care to admit,” team captain Matt Hoff says. “Once we realized we were going to go, the period of euphoria quickly went away and we had to come up with a good training plan on the spot.”
Finishing in 26th place, CrossFit Inception is located in Columbus, Ga., near Fort Benning, an Army Base, and has a large military membership. It relied primarily on the Open results in forming its team, however, some of its top performers could not make it to Regionals because of military deployments and other obligations. The team then looked at who would work well together, who had done well in local competitions, and who had a wide range of strength and skills. ”We all thought that the Regionals WODs would have tests that would have ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers: do you have muscle-ups, can you thrust X amount of weight. Turns out we were right on that,” he says.
The demands of military life also prevents the team from working out together on a daily basis. “All of our athletes have pretty crazy schedules,” Hoff says. “Four of us are active duty in the Army, one of us is a student and coach who recently left the Army, and another is a mom with a deployed husband. It would be impossible for all of us to get together daily to work out. We've had some great dedicated team practices, but none of us are full-time CrossFitters.”
Although Hoff says the Regional workouts do not necessarily play to their strengths, the team is hoping to surprise people at Regionals. “There is a huge jump in programming difficulty from the Open to Regionals, which I think is fine in most cases, but this was like getting called up from high school to the big leagues. That being said, these WODs are really unique and will be tremendously challenging to everyone.”