Individual competitors line up for a date with Naughty Nancy.
Nancy is five rounds of a 400-meter run and 15 overhead squats at 95 lb. It’s usually performed on flat ground.
Naughty Nancy is worse.
“Only” four rounds, the Games event features a 600-meter run up and over the hill at the end of the soccer stadium and through the stands. The barbell is loaded to 140/95 lb., and athletes must perform 25 reps per round.
She’s naughty, indeed, and athletes only had 20 minutes to do her.
Unlike the max-effort Zigzag Sprint, athletes had time to strategize for Naughty Nancy. Should they take an early lead or pace the first few rounds and turn it on at the end? And what if they couldn’t after four laps up the stairs, over the hill and around the stadium?
Kaleena Ladeairous chose to dominate the entire time. She maintained a pace none of the other women could match, winning with a time of 16:46.
Jason Leydon, Ladeairous’ coach for the last year and a half, said they were looking forward to this event all weekend.
“I knew she’d do well. This was right in her wheelhouse,” he said.
Samantha Briggs, a former heptathlete, was a favorite going into this event. In an effort to pass Ladeairous in the last round, Briggs turned on the gas at the last run, passing Michelle Kinney. Then it was time to take on Ladeairous. It was Briggs’ last shot. Would her strategizing pay off or was Ladeairous just too good?
Ladeairous reached the top of the stairs to descend back into the stadium and paused for half a second to look over her right shoulder to see who was behind her. Briggs was closing in. The two women headed to the grass and picked up their bars to start their overhead squats, and neither could afford to set the bar down.
But Briggs dropped the bar, and it was a first-place finish for Ladeairous. While Briggs couldn’t beat the athlete from the North East, she took second and moved into first overall.
Erin Light, an athlete from the Canada West Region, said she was thrilled to be in the final heat. “I’m doing way better than I expected. My goal was to be 35th,” said Light, who went into Naughty Nancy ranked 24th.
She knew this event would be her worst so far; she tied for 36th.
“I just wanted to get it over with. I’m not a great runner, and I can’t squat to save my life,” Light said. She said she was both excited and nervous going in the last heat against people like Briggs and Christy Phillips, the latter of whom went into the event as the overall leader.
Phillips, however, was at the back of the pack by the third round and took 26th in the workout, which put her in third overall.
It was a win Ladeairious needed, and it put her in sixth overall. Leydon said he doesn’t expect his athlete to be dominant in the clean-and-jerk event, so he knew how important Naughty Nancy was for her.
“We need her to do well on all the long endurance events,” he said.
For the clean and jerk, Leydon said he hopes she can hit 200 lb.
“I’m a bit surprised,” Leydon said about Ladeairious’ performance in her first CrossFit Games, “but I knew she could do well,” he said.
“I’m so impressed with how much grit and determination she has shown.”
The athletes were packed into two heats of more than 20 competitors each, which meant they had to battle for position on the run, making sure they didn’t get bottlenecked for the single-file run down the stairs.
In the first heat, Tyson Takasaki of Canada West took an early lead that he was able to maintain for almost the entire event. Takasaki stayed ahead of the pack until Ben Stoneberg made his move on the final run, and the two reached the bar at almost the same time.
Stoneberg edged Takasaki on the OHS, winning the heat with a time of 17:45, with Takasaki in second.
“It was horrible,” Takasaki said about Naughty Nancy. “Especially those last two rounds.”
He added: “The hardest part was the stairs and getting over the hill.” This is Takasaki’s first Games experience as an individual (he competed on the CrossFit Taranis team in 2011 and finished on the podium in the Affiliate Cup).
“Being a rookie, you feel like you have to prove yourself a bit more,” he said. “The vets have sort of earned the right to be a bit more cocky and rightfully so. It’s just like football, or any other sport.”
The final heat was packed with vets, and this was an event where experience would pay off. The key was managing the workload and staying just below the red line.
Josh Bridges took his time on the first run but completed his first set of OHS unbroken. He was the first to start his second run, widening his lead as some of the men chose to walk on the uphill portion of the berm. Bridges did not walk. Having tasted victory on Legless, Bridges was after another win.
Rich Froning is known for masterful pacing during events, and Jason Khalipa is known for his endless pain tolerance, and they each made their move on the third set of overhead squats, closing in on Bridges. Froning and Khalipa finished their OHS almost at the same time, fighting for second place.
Neither could catch Bridges.
The crowd in the stadium rose to their feet as Bridges descended into the stadium. Last year’s CrossFit Games champion, Annie Thorisdottir, her hair down and a smile on her face, leaned over the back side of the bleachers to watch Bridges enter the stadium alone, well ahead of Froning and Khalipa.
Then it was on to the final set of OHS. Once he got the bar overhead, Bridges did not put it down. He finished all 25 OHS, threw down the bar and ran to the finish line, giving his trademark fist-pump to the cheering crowd.
Froning was able to edge out Khalipa on the OHS for a second-place finish, with Khalipa taking third.
Froning is now in second place overall; he has yet to win a single event. Will the two-time champ turn it around this afternoon for a win in the Clean and Jerk Ladder, or will Neal Maddox repeat his winning performance in the Clean Ladder of 2012? Khalipa, 11 points ahead of Froning on the strength of three event wins, will also be looking to make a statement when things get heavy at 1 p.m.
For complete standings and all scores from all divisions, visit the Leaderboard.
1. Kaleena Ladeairous (16:46.0)
2. Samantha Briggs (17:27.7)
3. Valerie Voboril (17:50.2)
Overall leader: Samantha Briggs
1. Josh Bridges (16:31.6)
2. Rich Froning (17:19.3)
3. Jason Khalipa (17:28.7)
Overall leader: Jason Khalipa