The race for the Games is on in Canada West.
With four of the top five men in the Open choosing to compete on a team, including first-ranked Mark Cassibo and second-ranked Jason Cain, it will be a tough scramble for the podium.
Mark Cassibo, Robert Perovich (fourth) and Nate Beveridge (seventh) make up the Men’s side of the Fraser Valley Centaurs. Joe Scali (fifth) will be competing on the CrossFit 604 team, and Cain will compete for his affiliate, CrossFit 306.
On the women’s side, two of the top five in the region — Angie Hay and Chelsea Miller — have also chosen the team route. Hay and Miller are members of other top-ranked teams in Canada West.Hay competes for Team Taranis, which finished second in the Open, and Miller is on the CFC Crew, which finished fourth.
Crystal Kirby-Peloquin finished the Open in 17th and will lead CrossFit 204 as the top-ranked athlete on another solid team.
There is very little breathing room between the top six teams in Canada West.
No. 1: Fraser Valley Centaurs
The Centaurs of CrossFit Fraser Valley represented Canada West at the Games in 2012. Beveridge describes himself as the tactician of the team.
“I strive to perfect movements in order to increase efficiency and reduce wasted energy and time,” Beveridge explains. “Though I’m reminded by the other guys that sometimes you need to throw strategy out of the window and just ‘grip it and rip it.’”
Nicknamed ‘the Tasmanian Devil,’ Cassibo is known for a positive attitude and dogged determination.
“He can blow you away or come from behind in the last few seconds to steal a victory,” Beveridge attests. “He is greatly improved in (running and rowing) over the past year, and his willingness to hang out in the ‘Pain Cave’ is uncanny.”
Perovich has overcome significant obstacles to compete. He ruptured his Achilles tendon in 2011, and still feels the effects.
“His upper body is ridiculously strong, but his mass strength in his lower body was greatly affected,” Beveridge says. “He is working hard to get it back, but it is a long process. His willingness to push though the pain is phenomenal and he possesses a very high level of ability in the finer skills.”
Leah Goddard, Ruth Unaegbu and Karolina Pawlak represent the women’s side of the Fraser Valley team.
“Karolina is a really good CrossFitter in training, but during competition she brings her game to a whole new level,” Beveridge says.
Beveridge says Pawlak’s strength is lifting.
“Her exceptional technique in the Olympic lifts make up for her relatively modest pure strength numbers and allows her to come out ahead in most strength ladders.”
Unaegbu is also returning to the Centaurs roster. Last year, she was the pure strength specialist.
“Ruthie has worked hard to develop her skills over the past eight months. Her raw power allows her to move tremendous loads quickly, but her relative lack of experience and technique in the lifts can cause her to fatigue quickly,” Beveridge says.
Unaegbu suffered a knee injury over the past year, which has limited her ability to develop metabolic capacity.
“Her intangibles make her a great team athlete,” he says.
Goddard, who placed 20th in Canada West in the Open, is the newcomer to the team. Last year, Goddard just missed the cut and spent the past year working hard to improve.
“She made tremendous progress in all areas over the past eight months,” Beveridge says. “Her strength is catching up to the big dogs. Her raw power is unparalleled and she has developed her skills to a very high level.”
He adds: “Our ability to know one another, transition between movements and our overall general ability make us a formidable team. We are truly a team and a family. We have one goal in mind: winning. Plain and simple.”
But winning won’t be easy. In many regions, the difference between first place and sixth place is enormous. But in Canada West, the race is tight and only 34 points separate the standings of the Centaurs and sixth-ranked CrossFit 306.
No. 6: CrossFit 306
Over the past year, CrossFit 306 has grown and developed a number of strong athletes. The biggest name on the team is also the affiliate owner, Jason Cain. Cain competed at the Games in 2010 as a part of the CrossFit Connection team. In 2011, he won the Canada East Regional, and placed 38th at the Games. Last year, he won the Open in Canada West.
“I realized I wasn’t too old or too small, just too weak,” Cain recalls.
He has spent the last year addressing this weakness, and has seen significant advances.
“I just squatted 195 kg and cleaned 142 kg. I got a bronze at the Western Canadian Weightlifting Championships, which was midway through the Open,” he says. “I’m ready to anchor our team to our highest possible finish.”
Alongside Cain are Ty Prosofsky and Nathan Lynchuk. Lynchuk is the gymnast.
“He is our go-to guy for muscle-ups, pull-ups, box jumps and running,” Cain says.
This year will be his first Regional event.
Prosofsky, or “Thor,” is their resident strong guy — he deadlifts more than 500 lb. and squats more than 440 lb.
“He’s the kind of guy you don’t want to get on his bad side,” Cain says.
Prosofsky suffered an injury on 13.3, posting only a single rep on 13.4, but finished within the top 15 males in Canada West on the first two events of the Open.
“If Ty is 100 percent, he is a force to be reckoned with,” Cain says.
CrossFit 306 has Viki Cirkvencic, Laura Werhkamp and Rebecca Winterhalt as their female contingent.
While Cirkvencic placed 26th in the Open, she chose Team over Individual.
“She’s competed in many different events, narrowly missing the podium, but she has always learned from her mistakes and improves quickly,” Cain says of Cirkvencic.
Werhkamp, the rookie, is 306’s power athlete who loves short, intense, heavy workouts. She placed 67th in the Open, ranking as high as 33rd on 13.4.
“She posted a 2:42 Fran and can link 70 thrusters at 65 lb.,” Cain says. “She has some incredible Oly numbers: 185-lb. clean and jerk and a 152-lb. snatch. Not to mention she has her muscle-ups and can overhead squat 200 lb.”
Winterhalt’s strengths lie in her ability to go long and heavy.
“She has run marathons, but got bored and prefers to lift and run, as opposed to just lift,” he explains.
The team from 306 is well rounded, and has a strong, experienced leader in Cain.
“Our biggest weakness is a lack of experience,” Cain admits. “We’ve done our best to try and expose our athletes to as many different competitions as possible, but most of our team has only CrossFitted for just over a year.”
The Centaurs have five members who qualified as individuals, and a proven track record. CrossFit 306 has two who qualified for Regionals — one athlete who might have, and a few untested athletes who weren’t too far behind the pack.
Four other top-ranked teams separate the Centaurs and 306. It’s going to be a great race.