Heading into Day 2 of the South Central Regional, Get Lifted CrossFit had a team, man and woman in position to qualify for the CrossFit Games.
Over the course of the next two days and four events, it would be down to two. Team Get Lifted and Holly Mata finished the Regional in third place.
Team captain Joe Mata (Holly’s husband), admits the weekend was a bit of a roller coaster. Event 4 – a chipper of wall balls, chest-to-bar pull-ups, pistols and dumbbell snatches — was a tough one for the Get Lifted team with a 16th-place finish.
“After that (event), I felt we were too far out to make the top three,” Mata says.
But he was wrong. The team rallied and finished Event 5 in third place, Event 6 in second place and the final event in first place. This put them on the podium in third place overall, edging out CrossFit Central by just four points. After the emotional weekend, the team of APEs (which stands for All People Excel) is heading to Carson, Calif.
The team is now preparing for the Games physically and mentally to take on the toughest teams in the world. Following the leadership, programming and guidance of Get Lifted owner Paul Smith, the team looks at each other as family.
“I think every team wants to win, but for us, it’s to make Paul and Maribel Smith proud, as well as the people at home,” team member Fernanda Magana says. “It was a bittersweet day at Regionals to have the team and Holly (on) the podium and miss Paul up there. He got us to this level and this is definitely for him and Maribel, who is the ‘mom.’”
The Get Lifted team is a blend of personalities, strengths, ages and experiences. Tammy McDonald, 41, is the only returning member from its former qualifying team and is known for her strength.
“Tammy has a sick deadlift — 315 lbs., touch and go,” teammate Nick LaMantia says.
As the veteran of the team, McDonald says they know what it takes to get a team to the Games.
“I think if there was a ‘formula’ for success as a team, I would have to say it is the passion that we all have at an individual level for what we do,” McDonald says. “This love for competition and our drive to succeed makes for an awesome team.”
LaMantia, the newest member of the team and known as “Wreck It Ralph,” competed for the first time at the 2013 Regional and says the team is ways in competitive mode.
“Success has numerous amounts of formulas that all equate to the same thing. For us, it’s training like you’re competing,” he says. “Practice like you want to play … arguably one of the most stereotypical sayings in sports, however, very accurate.”
Magana, the smallest team member at 5-foot but “with the most fight,” is known for her abilities with bodyweight movements. However, for the past year, she has been training to work on her strength.
“I worked this past year on getting stronger like the big girls,” she says. “I sacrificed much of my motor along the way. Balance is key to (being) a successful athlete.”
As she prepares for the Games, Magana says she’s making the most of what she’s got.
“At this point, you could only work with what you have. Learn to move quicker with it and polish skill and movements because, where we are going, no-reps will be fatal.”
Rounding out the team are Brenda Chavez and Anthony Abeel. Abeel, 20, is described by his teammates as fearless.
“It’s pretty much working your ass off,” he says of how the team is successful. “Paul Smith has really made us all into mentally tough people. Everyone leads. We all push each other and we all say what needs to be said.”
As team captain, Mata knows the strengths and weaknesses of the team. This is vital as they prepare for the big show later this month.
“Keeping calm under fire,” he explains. “We’ve had a history of mental mistakes in the past and this year was no different. Considering that we had almost two weeks to review and understand the rules of the (events), these kinds of mental lapses are detrimental to any chance of doing well. As a team, we need to remember to communicate and talk to one another … to ensure that we aren’t beating ourselves.”
So what exactly does being an APE entail?
“Being an APE means the most to me. Blood, tears, sweat … Being an APE not only means excelling, but helping everyone around me excel,” Chavez says.
Abeel adds: “To always strive for better and to never be satisfied, because with CrossFit, I've learned that there is no plateau … we all can push our bodies beyond what our mind could ever think is attainable.”
Team Get Lifted has evolved as CrossFit has evolved. They are heading to the Games to win, for their coaches, their community and each other.