In a crowd of weightlifters and CrossFit athletes, with bodybuilders, fencers and powerlifters passing by, Alyssa Ritchey tugged at her singlet while noise from the crowd at the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio polluted the platform.
Chalked, she addressed the bar like she’d practiced and phased out the crowd sitting beneath her. Atop several dozen sheets of plywood, she tightened. In an instant, she snatched 70 kg and was awarded three white lights. After a successful clean and jerk at 86 kg, Ritchey won the female CrossFit division with a total of 156 kg, qualifying for the USA Weightlifting 2014 National Championships.
The former gymnast says she’s not trying to be the best weightlifter; she just likes moving heavy weight.
“I wanted to do it just for fun,” she said. “I knew I could hit some heavy weights and do it really well because my body weight is so low compared to my lifts.”
Three hours later, she put up 352 reps on 14.1, tying for 50th place in the Central East.
Qualifying for Nationals, however, doesn’t change Ritchey’s priorities. She said she prefers the unpredictability and variety of CrossFit.
“CrossFit is like a blindfold, where in weightlifting it’s like I can see with one eye,” she said. “I can see where I can go with weightlifting but I can’t see where I might go with CrossFit, and I absolutely love CrossFit. It challenges you, and you’re never good at everything.”
With one Open workout in the books, the 24-year-old from 8th Day Gym is looking to improve on last year’s regional performance. After finishing the Open 21st in the world, she went on to place 12th at the Central East Regional.
In the last year, her deadlift has increased from 265 lb. to 325 lb., her clean from 170 lb. to 210 lb. and her front squat from 165 lb. to 215 lb.
“It’s pretty sweet to see where I’ve come in almost a year now,” she said.
Her work paid off at the Arnold, but not without a price. To make weight in the 53-kg class, Ritchey cut carbohydrates and reduced water intake 10 days before the competition, losing 10 lb.
She said the dehydration affected her performance in 14.1.
“The homeostasis in my body was off,” she said. “I could tell my body was a little more tired than normal with the dieting.”
Even though conditions weren’t ideal, she wasn’t complaining. A few sets of 30 double-unders was cake, considering that her coach, Joe Cebulski, often programs workouts containing up to 1,000 double-unders.
“Double-unders don’t scare me, because Joe teaches us that whenever double-unders come along, it’s your relaxation and breathing time,” she said. “The point is not to redline.”
She performed her first four rounds unbroken. Depleted and parched, she was forced to pause for a gulp of water before doing the last three rounds with snatches broken into sets of two.
“I pushed it to the max for that day and for how my body was feeling,” she said.
Though a re-do after re-fueling might have earned a few more reps, she said they weren’t worth the worry.
“I don’t want to re-do any workouts,” she said. “This year, I haven’t checked the Leaderboard once yet. If I’m 48th going into regionals, I’m 48th. If I’m first, I’m first. It means absolutely nothing. I just want to make it to regionals.”
With returning Games competitors Julie Foucher, Michelle Kinney, Lindy Barber and Jennifer Smith all playing in the Central East, it won’t be easy to steal the show. But Ritchey is looking forward to proving she belongs on the regional stage.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” she said. “I feel excited that I get to be with all these other women who are amazing. I’m absolutely ready to be on that number and to hear ‘3-2-1 … go!’ There’s gonna be some sick competitors and I can’t wait to compete with them.”