North Central’s men and women individual competitors took center stage Friday afternoon providing plenty of drama with the day’s heaviest weights and a furious comeback.
But it was the Alex show when it came to the top finishers. Alex Nettey, of CrossFit Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, and Alexandra LaChance, of CrossFit Gambit in St. Louis, Missouri, made their way to the top by posting solid results throughout the day while flying under the radar.
CrossFit Games competitors Elisabeth Akinwale, of CrossFit Construct, and Stacie Tovar, of CrossFit Omaha, garnered the most attention and loudest cheers with their performances throughout the first three events.
However, it was LaChance sitting on top of the women’s Leaderboard with top five finishes in the first three events.
“It feels crazy. I came in here yesterday the most intimidated I’ve ever been in my whole life. I didn’t even think I belonged here,” said LaChance, a 26-year-old former University of Arkansas gymnast. “I’m shocked. I’m so nervous for everything. Today was kind of my ‘wheelhouse.’ Tomorrow and the day after are going to be more challenging.”
In Event 1, Akinwale wasted no time showing she meant business with a 180-lb. hang squat snatch. That was already more weight than any other female competitor in the first two heats. Then the 35-year-old took some time to breathe and sat on the floor with her legs crossed before she put up 200 lb. That was one of the loudest moments in the arena, giving many in the crowd goose bumps.
She said she recently focused on hang work prior to the announcement of the regional events and felt well prepared.
“My security weight was 175 lb. … but I really wanted to bump it up to make the jumps I wanted to,” Akinwale said. “Once the jitters got out, the adrenaline really started working in my favor. I hit it solid and it felt great.”
Tovar struggled in Event 1. She was unsuccessful at her first attempt at 150 lb., and then failed to get below parallel on her second. Tovar hit her lift on the third and final attempt, but she was visibly upset.
The five-time Games veteran came back focused for Nasty Girls V2. She flew out of the gate and never relinquished the lead in Heat 3. Tovar’s time of 8:21 was 75 seconds faster than second-place finisher Jessica Schulz from CrossFit Rise in Schaumburg, Illinois. LaChance was third with a time of 9:53.
An emotional Tovar stepped off the event floor and broke into tears.
“It’s been a difficult day,” she said. “That’s OK, cause it’s a test. I have to trust that my game plan and strategy is who I am as an athlete. I have to focus on me and take it one event as a time. I just have to work a little harder unfortunately after today. God blessed me with an awesome talent and gift and I have to use it.”
Event 1 Results
1. Elisabeth Akinwale (200)
2T. Grace Dresher (165)
2T. Alexandra LaChance (165)
Event 2 Results
1. Elisabeth Akinwale (315)
2. Tristan Erlenbaugh (295)
3. Katelyn Busaker (230)
Event 3 Results
1. Stacie Tovar (8:21)
2. Jessica Schulz (9:36)
3. Alexandra LaChance (9:53)
1. Alexandra LaChance (10)
2. Elisabeth Akinwale (14)
3. Jessica Schulz (14)
4. Grace Dresher
5. Katelyn Busacker
6. Kady Sackett
7. Kelley Jackson
8. Tristan Erlenbaugh
9. Mallory Lawson
10. Michele Weissenhofer
Alex Nettey’s name was at the top of the Leaderboard throughout the day. His 270-lb. hang snatch squat was good for a tie for second in Event 1. He went on to record a 260-foot handstand walk, good for sixth.
Nettey said he had a plan going into Day 1, and he was able to hit most of his goals after the day’s three events, even surprising himself on the handstand walks.
“I knew that today’s events were ones I needed to do well on,” the 30-year-old said. “And when it came to the handstand walks, I had actually never done 120 (feet). I felt pretty confident I could get there, but you just never know.”
The day’s biggest lift in Event 1 belonged to Arlen Castenada who successfully lifted 285 lb. He initially was no-repped on his attempt at 275 lb. when the judge ruled he stepped off the mat. However, after a review, it was determined he maintained control and stayed on the mat, which allowed him to make his 285 lb. attempt.
He said he practices snatches with big weights on a regular basis, and he was confident he’d do well. The no-rep, he added, wasn’t an issue.
“I did the snatch workout, the format of it in my gym,” said Castenada of CrossFit 636 in Arnold, Missouri. “I knew I was going to be ready.”
Nasty Girls V2 earned its name with the brutal combination of three rounds of 50 alternating one-legged squats, seven muscle-ups, and 10 hang power cleans. Some of the big lifters earlier struggled with the work while smaller and lighter athletes were able to excel.
Jacob Heppner of Iron Major CrossFit in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas led wire-to-wire and finished in 7:37, closely followed by Kyle Kasperbauer of CrossFit Omaha at 7:47. Nettey finished in 9:03, which was good for fifth in Event 3.
Sporting his lucky green and white camouflage shorts, Heppner’s goal for Nasty Girls V2 was simple: unbroken. He was able to stay consistently faster than the others at one-legged squats.
When asked about finishing strong, Heppner had one thing to say: “Kasperbauer. Him chasing me. And I saved a little bit from the first couple of rounds so I could stay steady.”
Not everything in this event was about those who finished on top. The near-capacity crowd took to its feet as 22-year-old Kenny Brown of Power Cat CrossFit in Manhattan, Kansas. inspired everyone with his gutsy and emotional performance. In 2010, Brown broke both his fibula and tibia playing football and spent eight months in a boot and five months on crutches.
To make things worse, Brown’s leg became infected and doctors had to remove part of the bone in his leg. It is now held in place with a titanium rod.
Despite the pain he was in, Brown completed two full rounds of pistols, plus 15 more in the final round while fighting back tears.
“It’s never going to fully heal,’ he said. “That’s kind of just the way that it is now. I knew I was way back there, but I just kept working and fighting.”
Event 1 Results
1. Arlen Castenada (285)
2T. Nick Bloch (270)
2T. Phillip Kniep (270)
2T. Alex Nettey (270)
Event 2 Results
1. Jacob Heppner (355)
2. Roderick Holloway (335)
3. Bobby Noyce (330)
Event 3 Results
1. Jacob Heppner (7:37)
2. Kyle Kasperbauer (7:47)
3. Zak Carchedi (8:49)
1. Alex Nettey (13)
2. Phillip Kniep (14)
3. Jacob Heppner (21)
4. Brandon Pastorek
5. Kyle Kasperbauer
6. Roderick Holloway
7. Duke Burk
8. Danny Burk
9. Michael Bodi
10. Justin Allen
It was business as usual on Day 1 for the teams as two-time Games qualifier CrossFit Kilo finished on top. The Cedar Falls, Iowa team weathered a sixth place start to climb back on top after notching a second place finish in Event 2. The team ended the day after posting an event record on Event 3 with a combined total of 615 feet in handstand walks. At the end of the day, the North Central teams posted three event records. Besides Kilo’s impressive mark, CrossFit Green Bay of Green Bay, Wisconsin set a record on Event 1 finishing at 7:25. The Event Record for Event 2 goes to CrossFit St. Louis of St. Louis, MIssouri with a total hang squat snatch of 1,145 lb.