“Running isn't my favorite. I don't think I was born to run. Let's just say I've been doing a lot of running since last August.”
In her first year competing as an individual, Danielle Horan won the 2013 North East Regional.
The former equestrian jumper found CrossFit in 2010 and started attending classes at Champlain Valley CrossFit. When she began mastering the more advanced movements in a matter of weeks, her coaches knew they’d found someone special.
“She started at the gym like any other member coming to class,” says Jade Jenny, Champlain Valley co-owner, who pulls double duty as Horan’s coach and boyfriend. “After just a few months, she was off pull-up bands, had her first muscle-up within three to four months and the list goes on.”
Knowing Horan had significant potential, Jenny encouraged her to start competing and soon found that while the pressure pushed Horan physically, it also brought out an intense mental side to the future Games qualifier.
“Every time she competes, things get a little better. The first year of the Open, I think she did (Open Workout) 11.1 five times. Not to get a better score, but to just make it through it,” Jenny says.
Horan’s drive and ever-increasing skills and strength eventually earned her an invitation to the 2012 North East Regional. Instead of competing as an individual, she joined Champlain Valley’s team and helped them qualify for the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games.
“Last year was probably really good having Dani be on the team as her first exposure to not only the Regional, but also the Games,” Jenny says.
Following Champlain Valley’s 18th place Games finish, with her sights set on competing as an individual, Horan began working on her endurance and running in preparation for 2013.
“Running isn't my favorite. I don't think I was born to run,” Horan says. “Let's just say I've been doing a lot of running since last August.”
All that work paid off this spring with a 10th-place finish in the Open in the North East.
But heading into a wide-open women’s field at the North East Regional, Horan was still a relative unknown. That changed following a second-place finish on Jackie and a first-place finish in Event 2, when she quickly moved up the weight increments and ended with three overhead squats at 200 lbs. right before time expired. Her coach credits Horan’s strength with a focus on old-school training basics.
“CrossFit is new, strength and conditioning is not,” Jenny says. “Strength and Olympic lifting is a big part of her training. She doesn't have an Olympic lifting background, (and) she didn't touch a barbell until she started CrossFit two-and-a-half years ago.”
That basic training approach was beneficial for Horan, and she held or shared the lead for the rest of the competition. On Event 6’s chipper, she finished nearly a minute-and-a-half ahead of the next closest competitor in the North East.
“I didn’t really have a favorite event during the Regional,” Horan says. “I think it was really well programmed.”
Horan didn’t place out of the top four on any of the Regional Events.
Now, the focus of Horan’s training is in her CrossFit classes. That presence is important to keep her connected to the gym’s community, Jenny says.
“While Dani does a lot in addition to class, her foundation is still class, and we build out from there,” he says. “It's important for me and her that the community feels she is a part of it, and not up and above everybody else.”
But like any aspiring Games winner, that also means plenty of extra work to overcome any and all weaknesses that could be tested in Carson.
“We’re focusing on running, likely her biggest weakness, and trying to throw in random odds and ends,” Jenny says. “We've utilized all the different strongman tools, we swam across a lake two nights ago, ran a four-and-a-half-mile mountain toll road, trail hill repeats, sandbags, wheelbarrows, mountain biking, paddle board and other odds and ends. The goal is to show up healthy, strong and at least have had a small amount of experience with everything that shows up.”