No one expects to have a stomach virus and an injury in the days leading up to any major event, especially when the event is the Mid Atlantic Regional. Unfortunately for Gary Helmick, that’s exactly what happened.
The Games veteran has been battling a stomach bug since Wednesday and fell during his final practice for the Event 5—legless rope climbs and sprints—an event in his wheelhouse. In an attempt to see how his stomach would handle the legless rope climbs, he encountered the unimaginable.
“I came down from an 8-foot jump off the rope right onto the rope and rolled my ankle,” Helmick said. “I knew instantly it was bad. I have twisted my ankle before, but nothing this severe, and this is one of my first-ever injuries in sports, so when it happened I knew it wasn’t normal and it got really bad really quick.”
Helmick was a sure contender for one of the top three podium positions, so this is a disappointment for the long-time athlete and affiliate owner. Although he is here supporting his wife, Alea Helmick, it isn’t the same as being on the floor in the midst of the chaos and competition.
“I have had ups and downs,” he said about his emotions regarding the injury. “At first it was really hard and I kind of accepted it because everything happens for a reason. But just being able to talk to and support Alea has been great. Watching the events and knowing my times is really hard also. It’s like a roller coaster so I’m trying not to really watch the events.”
Despite being knocked out of this year’s regional competition he plans to recover as quickly as his body will allow and return even stronger next year.
Who knew hang squat snatches and handstand walks could cause such a raucous when paired together? Moving big weight and walking upside down can do that sometimes, especially when it comes to the top individual men of the Mid Atlantic.
The announcement of the final heat for the initial men’s events was unnecessary. When the men took the floor, the crowd roared.
Nathan Bramblett, who is competing unaffiliated, loves heavy weights and is excited about competing in his first regional weekend.
“My shoulder has been messed up, but I hit 225 lb. in the snatch and it felt good,” he said. “The crowd here is awesome, then I hit 250 lb. so that pumped me up.”
Once he approached the handstand walk, no one in the crowd had any idea what he was capable of until he started walking.
“I knew I could walk on my hands,” Bramblett said. “I also knew I wanted to make it one length and start walking back before Ben (Smith).”
Bramblett’s strategy paid off as he tied for second place in Event 2.
Stealing the show for the handstand walk was Clifford Kohut from Raleigh CrossFit. In his first regional appearance, he secured the Event 2 Record with a distance of 410 feet. This was his plan all along.
“That was the goal coming in,” Kohut said. “I practiced before and hit 360 in practice, and I still had some time left over I couldn’t see my clock so I knew I could get three or more laps but I just didn’t know how much further I could get.”
Ben Smith from CrossFit Krypton, nicknamed the Phenom, has the best all-time regionals record to date. He did not disappoint on the max hang squat snatch. Approaching the bar for his third attempt, Smith appeared solid and steady.
He set the men’s record for the day at a smooth 280 lb. as the crowd cheered him on, although that wasn’t certain during his warm-up earlier this afternoon.
“My strategy going in was to hit 280 lb. and I hit that in practice throughout the season,” Smith said. “It made me a little nervous because I missed the opener during warm-up, and then I came out here and hit it just cause everyone’s there cheering me on.”
Knowing these two events were going to be a hit or miss for many athletes, Smith is excited to move on to the rest of the weekend.
“I’m looking forward to the rest of the events,” he said. “For me, everything else is just CrossFit.”
Event 1 Results
1. Ben Smith (280 lb.)
2. Ben Sturgill (275 lb.)
3. Nate Schrader (270 lb.)
Event 2 Results
1. Clifford Kohut (410 feet)
2T. Nathan Bramblett (305 feet)
2T. CJ Jacobsen (305 feet)
Don’t breathe too long. Smith might pass you by and take first place.
The last event for the men lived up to its name—totally nasty. This event required the men to use their incredible quad strength and endure their final pain of Day 1. Unlike this morning, most athletes felt more confident taking on this heavier endurance event.
Nathan Keil said it best: “Honestly, going into it, I knew it was a pistol race. I felt like if I could keep pace or slightly ahead of the bigger guys on the pistols, then the muscle-ups I could do unbroken.”
Going into the final set of muscle-ups, Keil didn’t change his strategy. His goal was to just keep up with Smith until the end.
Keil finished two seconds shy of taking first place in Nasty Girls V2. In the process of attempting a better grip on the bar, he held the bar in his hip socket before completing his final rep. In that moment, Smith used this pause to his advantage and took first place with a time of 8 minutes flat.
Handstands aren’t Kohut’s only strength. His third-place finish in Event 3 showed he is determined to move up the Leaderboard throughout the weekend. His strategy was to “just take the pistols nice an easy,” he said. “I knew I could move through faster than most guys because I am a little shorter. Other than that it was breathing during the transitions.”
Smith had a feeling it was going to come down to the end. “I just tried to save a little bit for the end,” he said. “I knew the race was going to be in the third round.”
Event 3 Results
1. Ben Smith (8:00)
2. Nathan Keil (8:02)
3. Clifford Kohut (8:12)
1. Ben Smith (12)
2. Nate Schrader (20)
3. John Zvejnieks (35)
4. Jordan Troyan (36)
5. Sonny Zickefoose (38)
6. Nathan Bramblett (39)
7. Zach Brock (40)
8. CJ Jacobsen (42)
9. Sean Thomson (42)
10. Brad Chilva (43)
It comes as no surprise Smith sits comfortably in first place after the first day of competition. With the hope of making the podium and returning to the CrossFit Games, Schrader had a consistent stream of top-10 finishes.
Newcomer John Zvejnieks took his highest place finish in Nasty Girls V2, edging out Jordan Troyan to end the day in third place overall.
The rest of the weekend will fall nicely into Smith’s wheelhouse. With the most stressful day out of the way, he said, “I think the rest of the weekend should be pretty fun.”
CrossFit women know how to snatch. None of the women in the final heat of Event 1 started with a weight lighter than 135 lb.
It was Nicole Capurso’s first time at regionals and she opened with 150 lb. on the hang squat snatch event. The 23-year old led Heat 2 with a 170 lb. hang squat snatch, giving her enough leverage to tie for second place after Event 1. She shared the tie with Games veteran Gretchen Kittelberger and regional athlete Dara Ching.
“I’ve done this event all week in the gym, but I would get to 170 lb. and miss it,” Capurso said. “That’s actually my PR from before and I’ve only hit it once or twice. So I was just trusting that even though I missed it in the gym, I would hit it out here.”
Alicia McKenzie of CrossFit West Springfield is here to perform this weekend. Her plan was to hit 185 lb. in Event 1 and was determined to execute it no matter what. With a win in in Event 1, McKenzie is off to a great start.
“I’ve hit it every time I have practiced. The 210 lb. was a PR attempt … what the hell, let’s go for it,” she said of her missed attempt. “I feel really good with the first two events. Now the real work starts. These first two were a little shaky for me, but now it’s fun.”
Kittelberger was excited for Event 2 because this showcased her lifelong gymnastics skills, but admitted this year is definitely going to be a fight for the podium. In fact, Kittelberger and Ching were head-to-head during the handstand walk up until the clock ran out.
Determined to make it back to the Games this year, Kittelberger placed second in the handstand walk with 265 feet and sits first place overall going into the final event of the day.
“It is a tough region,” Kittelberger said. “I almost counted myself out but when the regional workouts came out I thought, ‘Maybe I have a fighting chance.’ I feel very prepared, and I’m going to try to do the best I can and we will see what happens.”
Finishing Event 2 with a 35-foot advantage over Kittelberger, Lisa Mealey took the lead with a 300-foot handstand walk.
Event 1 Results
1. Alicia McKenzie (185 lb.)
2T. Nicole Capurso (170 lb.)
2T. Dara Ching (170 lb.)
2T. Gretchen Kittelberger (170 lb.)
Event 2 Results
1. Lisa Mealey (300 feet)
2. Gretchen Kittelberger (265 feet)
3. Dara Ching (260 feet)
It comes as no surprise that the top three female competitors in Nasty Girls V2 are CrossFit Games veterans.
After placing outside the top 10 in the first two events, Christy Adkins had a lot to prove coming into the final event of the day. She moved with a purpose, running to each station without so much as a moment to catch her breath. For the first round, Adkins and McKenzie stayed rep-for-rep until the end of round two where Adkins took a 45-second lead.
Adkins clearly had a goal in mind.
“I planned to go unbroken on the muscle-ups and on the hang power cleans,” she said.
A Games veteran, but a new competitor in the Mid Atlantic Region, Anna Tunnicliffe made her first move up the Leaderboard since the day began. She knew this event was going to be a tight race from the beginning.
“I had my rep scheme going into it, but my muscle-ups fell apart,” she said. “It was a tight field, you just have to keep pushing yourself as hard as you can.”
Tunnicliffe also knew Adkins was the one to beat.
“Christy got a solid lead,” she said. “I was just trying to chase after that.”
Despite having difficulty with her grip in the hang position, Adkins decided to drop her bar and reset in the final few reps in order to finish strong. Although she took time out to regroup, this did not hinder her performance. Adkins completed the event a minute faster Tunnicliffe, with a time of 8:07.
Another transplant to the Mid Atlantic, Emily Friedman finished third in the event, but has not performed as well as she hoped today.
“My pistols weren’t going the way I wanted them to,” Friedman said. “It’s not what I wanted, but I’ll take it.”
Event 3 Results
1. Christy Adkins (8:07)
2. Anna Tunnicliffe (9:16)
3. Emily Friedman (9:31)
1. Gretchen Kittelberger (11)
2. Anna Tunnicliffe (19)
3. Emily Friedman (21)
4. Shanna Duvall (22)
5. Linsey Wise (24)
6. Christy Adkins (25)
7. Dara Ching (28)
8. Alea Helmick (28)
9. Kimberly Klopp (29)
10. Lisa Mealey (34)