“I'll do my best to field a team that can represent our gym and defend our title.” ~Tommy Hackenbruck
Reigning Affiliate Cup champs Hack’s Pack Ute will not return for the 2014 Games season.
After earning the title two years in a row, two key members of Ute CrossFit Sugarhouse in Salt Lake City, Utah, have decided to compete as individuals and three are taking a year away from competition, leaving team captain Tommy Hackenbruck to reassess his options.
Though this has the potential to open a huge spot on the Affiliate Cup podium, individual competition in the South West will get tighter thanks to the return of Taylor Richards-Lindsay and Adrian Conway.
Richards-Lindsay, who was adamant in 2013 that competing as an individual was too much of a time demand, plans to “stay healthy, prepare for the podium and have fun.”
“I decided to go individual for 2014 mainly because Hack’s Pack was no longer going to be together,” Richards-Lindsay said. “It was either going to be (compete as an) individual or expand our family. My husband and I have been trying to find the right timing for expanding our family, but it seems I need one last fix of the Games before trying for a second child.”
Conway, a member of the CrossFit Seminar Staff, is aiming for a coveted spot at the Games and says his experience with Hack’s Pack will give him an edge.
“I started CrossFit in 2011 during the Open and tried to qualify that year out of the South West,” he said. “It was obvious I didn't have the proper skills. I'd like to try to test my abilities again.”
In the past, Hackenbruck, who placed second behind Mikko Salo at the 2009 CrossFit Games, advised his team members to train as though they were individuals, even in preparation for team competition.
“Tommy has helped further my development as an athlete … from coaching me up and training alongside him,” Conway said. “I've gotten better at each facet of the sport, including the mental side.”
Twenty-three-year-old Michael Cazayoux has a genetic disposition called spondylolisthesis and will be undergoing a spinal fusion in early December. He will spend the next year focusing on recovery.
“My goals for 2014 are to have a successful fusion, to further my career in strength and conditioning, and to continue to grow in other areas of my life outside of athletics,” Cazayoux said.
Erin Bennion is forgoing the 2014 season to focus on family and pursue her Ph.D., in nursing.
“My goals for 2014 have greatly changed since last year. My family supported and cheered me on so well, it is time for me to cheer them on,” she said.
“I am still working full time as a nurse and teaching biology at Southern Utah University, so life is pretty busy,” Bennion, 36, said. “It has not been an easy transition for me to switch focuses and give up training with my team. My heart, dedication and identity were wrapped up in that team.”
Don’t count Bennion out, though.
“I am not saying that I will not compete again in CrossFit, but just not in 2014,” she said.
Mary Lampas, who finished seventh in the South West in the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games Open, also has new goals for the upcoming year.
“My goals for 2014 include summiting Mount McKinley in Alaska with my husband,” she said.
Despite the split, the former members of Hack’s Pack Ute can’t stay away from training together for long.
“We did get a group together and take on the Invitational (Events) the other day,” Lampas said. “It was a mental and physical challenge for me to be back competing with the best athletes in the area.”
Team leader Hackenbruck is “100 percent supportive” of the team’s decision to forgo the Affiliate competition next season, but he has no intention of giving up the title in 2014.
“I'll do my best to field a team that can represent our gym and defend our title,” he said.
Updated Nov. 20, 2013--Clarified Michael Cazayoux's spinal condition.
Updated Nov. 20, 2013--Added Erin Bennion's Ph.D. focus.