Last weekend, Jason Khalipa won five events and took second on the other two at the NorCal Regional in Santa Rosa, Calif. With just nine points across seven events, Khalipa was on a whole other planet than the other competitors.
This weekend, Elisabeth Akinwale took over where Khalipa left off. Like Khalipa, she won five of the seven events and set two Event Records (5:59 Jackie and 2:45 Deadlift/Box jump). With the exception of the burpee muscle-up (11th) and Event 6 chipper (2nd), Akinwale kept a firm grip on 1st during the Regional Events.
The women of North Central, however, didn’t let her take the overall win without a fight. Entering the final day of competition this morning, Akinwale was in third overall (15 points) behind Deborah Cordner Carson (11 points) and Stacie Tovar (14 points). Ginny King and others weren’t far behind.
With an incredibly deep and talented pool of competitors, Akinwale had to fight until the end.
Today, she earned her spot atop the podium with a 2nd place finish on Event 6, and 1st place finish on Event 7.
On the men’s side, Kyle Kasperbauer faced a similar challenge. Titles mean nothing at Regionals, the 2012 Third Fittest Man Earth saw as he scraped and clawed his way up the overall Leaderboard. Like Akinwale, it all came down to the final day for Kasperbauer.
After the morning’s chipper, the competitors faced a quick couplet of rope climbs and heavy squat cleans. In 10 minutes or less, the final event determined the competitor's fate.
The top three women---Akinwale, Cordner Carson, and Tovar---were each separated a single point when they walked onto the competition floor for Event 7.
Akinwale was a step ahead of the pack throughout the couplet with Tovar on her heels. Some distance behind, Grace Dresher and Kelly Jackson continued to swap third and fourth.
Steady, Akinwale didn’t seem to waver in the later sets of cleans and rope climbs. As Tovar started her first rope climb in the final round, Akinwale was already running down the competition floor towards the 135-pound barbell. She finished all four reps and stepped on the finish mat by the time Tovar reached the final set of cleans.
Akinwale came just five seconds away from matching Camille Leblanc-Bazinet’s Event Record time of 4:08. Akinwale stepped on the mat at 4:13 to win Event 7 in North Central.
Pleased with her performance at the Regional, Akinwale doesn’t plan on altering her training for the Games.
“Moving forward, it’s just more of the same. I’m excited that I’ll have a few months to prepare,” Akinwale said.
After ripping the barbell off the floor and to her shoulders, Tovar stepped onto the mat 42 seconds after Akinwale for 2nd.
Tovar is amazed by how well she did, she says.
“It’s unfortunate I’m battling an injury the way I am,” Tovar said. “It’s amazing what adrenaline can do. When other people around you say they hardly noticed, it just amazes me.”
Jackson was able to separate herself from Dresher to take 3rd (5:02). Dresher followed 16 seconds later for 4th with Christina Merlo just two seconds behind.
“I think it’s easier to have fun and enjoy a workout when you don’t have the pressure of fighting for a place on the podium,” Jackson said.
Tovar and Akinwale never left Cordner Carson’s side as they cheered her to the to the finish mat at 5:42.
“What motivates me – to do this sport – are the people who come up to me and say, ‘You don’t know me, but I’m inspired by what you go through,’” Cordner Carson said after the Event. “This is good. I can do this and change a little piece of the world.”
1. Elisabeth Akinwale (4:13)
2. Bridget Ahlfield (4:42)
3. Stacie Tovar (4:55)
Entering the Event in 5th overall, Jared Stevens had to fight the odds.
Whether or not he would win a ticket to the Games, it was clear from the start that he was determined to win the final Event as he made quick work of the rope climbs and 225-pound squat cleans. Running down the floor with his long blonde hair tied back, he was a man on a mission.
Kyle Kasperbauer and Josh Silvernail--an underdog who finished 49th in the Open--were close behind.
On the third round, Silvernail started to fatigue and walk back to the rope. Fans on the sidelines yelled, “Run!” and he picked up his pace. At the rope, the 6’3” athlete used his height to his advantage.
Stevens kept distancing himself from the others. Eventually, the commentators stopped worrying about whether Stevens would win and instead asked whether he would beat Spencer Hendel’s Event Record time of 4:11.
He didn’t miss a single squat clean, but he didn’t move through the reps quite fast enough to beat Hendel. Stevens stepped onto the mat at 4:16.
"I thought about the Event Record as I was on that last round,” Stevens said. “But, I thought if I try and tap and go, it might put me on the ground. So, I didn't want to blow the lead on that. I did 4:15 in practice."
At the same time as Stevens finished, Kasperbauer was working on his final set of squat cleans. He stepped on the mat at 4:45 for second, just ahead of Nick Bloch (4:50) from an earlier heat. Silvernail joined him 9 seconds later (4:54) for fourth.
“This (event) was definitely my forte,” Silvernail said.
After the Event, Kasperbauer held onto 1st overall. It’s his second North Central Regional win, but it wasn’t any easier than his first.
"This weekend … was definitely a step up from last year. It was more challenging than last year,” Kasperbauer said.
He now knows that he needs to put in a lot of work for the Games.
"I've got a lot to work on in order to get where I want to be,” he said. “I thought a lot about my training personally but I need a lot more. I need to work a little more mobility and volume in general.”
After fighting for 1st at the Regional level, some may question whether he has any chance of surpassing--or even matching--his third place finish at the Games. Yet Kasperbauer unflinchingly states that he’s competing for the title Fittest on Earth. He’s in it to win it.
“I set my bar pretty high last year,” he says. “If anyone qualifies for the Games and if their goal isn’t to win, then why are you going?”
Justin Allen, finishing the weekend in 2nd overall, is determined to prove that he’s no one hit wonder.
“I want to make it to the last day of the Games,“ Allen said. “Prove it wasn’t a fluke the first time. The first time you’re happy to be there and taking it all in. This time I plan to make a statement.”
Multi-year Regional competitor, Alex Nettey, will make his first appearance at the CrossFit Games (7th in 2012, 4th in 2011) after sealing 3rd overall at the 2013 North Central Regional. Nettey was a crowd favorite all weekend, making the crowd roar for their hometown hero.
“It definitely hasn’t sunk in yet. It’s only five minutes old, so I've gotta process it and spend time with my community,” Nettey said. “It’s a total thrill and I can’t wait to get to the Games. Five years ago it was back at the Ranch and a totally different atmosphere. But I am going to draw on that as I prepare for this year’s Games. I put in a lot of hard work and the results finally came."
1. Jared Stevens (4:16)
2. Kyle Kasperbauer (4:45)
3. Nick Bloch (4:50)
Going into Event 7, CrossFit Kilo was in the lead but the team took nothing for granted.
“We want to be on the top. If we don’t get on the top today, we have to go home and work on mentality. That’s all it is. Mentality,” Armand McCormick of CrossFit Kilo said.
McCormick felt QCCF and CrossFit 515 breathing down his neck, but didn’t see the fact that they were fighting each other for 2nd overall. Just one point separated QCCF from 515 entering the final Event. Since the next closest team was 20 points away, they had no interest in anyone but each other.
All six teammates, working in man and woman pairs, had to go through the couplet of rope climbs and squat cleans.
CrossFit Omaha was the first team to move a pair through the couplet, leading with Bryce Teager.
“I went first because I did the lunges in Event 6. My legs are smoked so I did the 2’s,“ Teager said. “We decided to put Addi Kars second because her strength is the rope climb. We have Pat Mohs, who is great at squats so we thought he’d pop up and be our anchor.”
The plan was a good one for Omaha.
“We wanted to get ahead and start right away,” Teager said.
Struggles with the 15 foot rope climbs and squat cleans slowed down many of the teams, proving that you are only as fast as your slowest member.
“We tested the guys on the squat cleans and they were all pretty much even. For the girls, it was the same,” Brandon Bartz, coach of QCCF-Live Uncommon said. “We put Josiah Lorentzen to go first because he did Event 6 and would probably be fatigued. Colin Cartee had the fastest time in practice so we put him third and Sinan Gocmen second. From our tests, we put the girls in order of their practice times.”
In the end, it was Kilo who blew the other teams out of the water with anchor members Sonia Rodriguez and Ian Wass.
Kilo sealed the 1st place spot in the heat and on the podium with a time of 14:45.
With their focus set on the Games, CrossFit Kilo has a goal.
“We’re looking at one team – that’s Hacks Pack – who won last year. That’s who we’re chasing right now,” Armand McCormick said.
CrossFit Omaha took second in the Event with a time of 15:16.
“We thought we would be pretty well on that one,” Teager said. “We enjoyed this year’s Regional and can’t wait for next year. We plan on training hard and working on depth.”
QCCF-Live Uncommon took 3rd in Event 7 and earned a spot on the 2nd place podium position at the end of the Regional.
“We are excited to represent the North Central Region. We feel that our region has stepped up in the last couple of years and it’s a tough region to make it out of. We are excited to represent Iowa with three teams going out to LA,” Bartz said. “It used to be all Chicago, St. Louis, and big city teams, but now all the country folk are coming out to play.”
CrossFit 515 will represent the Region as the 3rd place team for the 2013 North Central Regional.
1. CrossFit Kilo (14:45)
2. CrossFit Omaha (15:16)
3. CrossFit QCCF - Live Uncommon (15:17)
CrossFit Games Qualifiers
1. Kyle Kasperbauer (36 points)
2. Justin Allen (43 points)
3. Alex Nettey (51 points)
1. Elisabeth Akinwale (18 points)
2. Stacie Tovar (22 points)
3. Deborah Cordner Carson (27 points)
1. CrossFit Kilo (17 points): Kate Roeber, Sarah McCormick, Sonia Rodriguez, Armand McCormick, Charlie Donohue and Ian Wass.
2. QCCF - Live Uncommon (23 points): Jessie Murphy, Maddy Ruggeberg, Theresa Meisenbach, Colin Cartee, Josiah Lorentzen and Sinan Gocmen.
3. CrossFit 515 (27 points): Jaime Noyce, Kady Onken, Lindsay Vaught, Bobby Noyce, Nate Yoho and William Coder.