When five-time CrossFit Games competitor Stacie Tovar received an email in January that said all CrossFit Games athletes could be randomly drug tested at any time, she didn’t question it.
In fact, it made the 29-year-old from Omaha, Neb., proud CrossFit was taking its regulations to the next level this year.
“This is such a positive for our sport,” Tovar of CrossFit Omaha said on Twitter.
Random drug testing is just one of the changes athletes will notice in the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games season.
There’s been some chatter about the new rules among athletes in the North Central Region, and for the most part, they’re looking forward to the changes.
“If CrossFit wants to be seen as a legitimate sport by the outside world, then our standards have to be top notch,” said Ginny King, who finished fourth at the 2013 North Central Regional.
Phillip Kniep, a past Games competitor from CrossFit Lincoln, said video submissions are a great way to hold athletes accountable.
“With a lot of money at stake and a ton of new competitors each year, there needs to be some sort of quality control,” he said.
King agreed. “I think anything that holds everyone to a higher standard is good for the sport.”
Alex Nettey, third place at the 2013 North Central’s and a part-time coach at CrossFit Chicago, said he welcomes the challenges the new requirements will bring to the CrossFit community.
“All the changes appear to be in place to increase the integrity and legitimacy of the sport, and those competing in it,” Nettey said. “Since the one purpose of the Open is to be the initial qualifying round to find the Fittest on Earth, the standards at the start of that quest need to be as high as they are at the finish of the Games themselves.”
Here’s a look at what’s happening around the North Central Region.
One familiar face you won’t see competing in the North Central Region this year is 26-year-old Sam Dancer. Dancer, who finished 12th in the North Central Region last year, married a fellow CrossFit athlete and moved to the Central East Region. He previously trained at Q-Town CrossFit in Illinois but now trains at CrossFit Conjugate in Cincinnati, Ohio. Dancer quickly laid tracks in the region last year when his online video of 22 back squats at 405 lb. went viral.
Keep your eyes on Jared Stevens. The 29-year old owner and coach at CrossFit 417 in Missouri missed the podium by just a few points at the regional last year and has been training hard to prepare for this season. He’s made strength gains and has placed in some of the top fitness competitions across the country.
The men who earned a ticket to the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games in Carson, Calif.—Justin Allen, Kyle Kasperbauer and Nettey—will all be returning this year.
At the Games last year, Allen pulled an impressive 1:19:39.7 half-marathon row, placing third in the event and 17th overall. Kasperbauer finished 20th overall at the Games, finishing 11th in both the Burden Run and Naughty Nancy events. Both Allen and Kasperbauer had competed at the Games individually in 2012. Kasperbauer finished on the podium in third that year. Nettey, who was competing at the Games for the first time, placed 36th overall.
For the first time in three years, the North Central Region will be sending a new face to compete at the 2014 Games.
Deborah Cordner Carson of CrossFit St. Paul will not be competing. The 33-year-old decided to take the year off to focus on coaching competitive teams at CrossFit St. Paul and CrossFit Minneapolis.
CrossFit Construct’s Elisabeth Akinwale, Tovar and Cordner Carson are the only women who have represented the North Central Region at the Games since 2011. Cordner Carson finished third at the Regional last year.
With the open spot on the podium, many CrossFit athletes and fans point to Ginny King, last year’s fourth-place regional finisher. But that won’t be the case this year. King is expecting a baby in September and won’t compete at regionals. However, she does plan to compete in the Open at her affiliate, CrossFit OKC in Edmond, Okla.
At the Games last year, Akinwale finished 10th overall, wowing the crowd by tying Lindsey Valenzuela for second place in the Clean and Jerk Ladder. Both women cleaned 235 lb. Akinwale completed heavy deadlifts, weighted one-legged squats and an 80-foot handstand walk 1:04 faster than any other competitor to finish first in the Cinco 1 Event. Tovar’s third-place finish in the ZigZag Sprint showcased her athleticism. She finished 20th overall. Cordner Carson was close behind in 21st place. She tied for fifth in the ZigZag Sprint and went on to place fifth in the next event—a brutal couplet of thrusters and legless rope climbs.
While North Central can expect the usual Iowa powerhouse teams—Cedar Falls’ CrossFit Kilo and Davenport’s Quad City CrossFit—it is anyone’s guess which affiliates will hold the top spots in the Open.
Quad City CrossFit’s Josiah Lorentzen recently posted on Facebook: “For the first time since 2010, I'll be taking a year off and won't be competing at the CrossFit regionals. The talent in our gym is scary it's so good! The time commitment it requires with new kids and multiple businesses is out of my league. This by no means, means we won't be at regionals. In fact, I believe we’re sending a better team than ever before! My all-out focus will be to make these six the best they can be and be at the CrossFit Games for the third year in a row!”
At last year’s Games, CrossFit Kilo, Quad City CrossFit and CrossFit 515 from Grimes, Iowa sent their finest to represent the team side of the competition. It was the second trip in two years for Kilo and Quad City with Kilo finishing in sixth. Quad City CrossFit placed 18th and CrossFit 515 rounded out the pack in 24th overall.
North Central sent 15 Masters athletes to the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games. Denny Hawkins, 59, took second place in the Men’s 55-59 Age Division and moves to the 60-plus division this year
Three-time Games veteran, Cindi Little will not be competing in the Open this year. She is currently coaching at CrossFit Springfield in Missouri and working with a sports therapist to correct an ongoing issue with her back.
Ingrid Hurley, 47, of CrossFit St. Charles in Missouri, finished 11th in her division at the Games last year. Though she’s not excited about all of the changes, she is excited about the opportunity to perform four additional workouts that will be videotaped to help determine which 20 athletes in each division attend the Games.
“I really dig this,” Hurley said. “This is what the (Games) are about and will give the athletes the best environment to really prove what they can do in one weekend.”