It’s the end of an era in the North East Region.
Four-time CrossFit Games athlete and three-time North East Regional champion Austin Malleolo will not return to the CrossFit Games this year. Neither will five-time CrossFit Games team and 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games Affiliate Cup Champion, CrossFit New England.
The teams representing the North East will be returning champs Team CrossFit Dynamix Strength, CrossFit King of Island Park and CrossFit Virtuosity.
Two new names and a Games veteran stood atop the men’s podium at the end of the weekend: Mathew Fraser (first), James Hobart (second) and Craig Kenney (third).
On the women’s side, Dani Horan became repeat champion, with newcomer Sheila Barden and Games athlete Rachel Martinez rounding off the top three.
The last two events of the weekend were both the longest and shortest.
In the chipper, athletes worked through 50 reps of nine movements—and then back. Athletes started with 50 calories on the rower and moved on to 50 box jump overs, 50 deadlifts, 50 wall-ball shots and 50 ring dips. Then, they turned around on the rings and did it all again.
The final event was the fast and furious couplet of pull-ups and heavy overhead squats, which proved surprisingly challenging.
Blue skies and a punishing sun greeted the athletes as they took on their final two events of the weekend.
“It was so hot out there,” Cody Mooney from CrossFit MF said. “I could feel the heat from the mats through my shoes.”
Games veterans Spencer Hendel and Malleolo came into Day 3 in fifth and sixth place, respectively. Hendel’s height was an advantage as he finished his first row and box jump overs well ahead of the pack.
Hendel slowed on the deadlifts, giving Malleolo—who is built for repping out deadlifts—the opportunity to take the lead. Kenney caught up to them on the deadlifts and kept a slight advantage through the rest of the event.
“I just knew I had to go as hard as possible,” Malleolo said. “I needed to beat everyone I could with my skill set. I can’t control anything else. I tried to keep up with Craig (Kenney) on the box jump overs, but he got me.”
Malleolo finished the event in third, behind Tyler Amstrong, who won Heat 3, 10 calories short of finishing the event, and ended up with the second best time of the day.
“In practice, I had 20 seconds left to get on the rower,” Amstrong said, laughing. “I didn’t get on the rower because I didn’t need to, but I was hoping today I would have more time. My legs were shot from the rest of the weekend, but for me it was about getting through the ring dips. The rest was cake.”
Up until this afternoon, only eight men had finished the last 50 calories on the rower, with no more than two in each region.
Kenney added his name to that list with four seconds to spare.
“In practice I got 46 (calories),” Kenney said. “I knew the weather out here today would be a factor, too. Then I actually felt great after the dips, which usually doesn’t happen. And having the other guys out here to compete with definitely helps.”
The win kept him in second overall, nine points ahead of Hobart. Kenney’s wife Marta stood near the finish mat, with their 3-month-old fast asleep in a front baby carrier.
“This is great. He was really excited about this one,” Marta said. “But I haven’t even thought about the next event yet.”
Event 6 Results
1. Craig Kenney (20:56)
2. Tyler Armstrong (21:10)
3. Austin Malleolo (21:20)
Event 7 was all about holding on.
Heavy bars came tumbling down as athletes tried as hard as they could to stabilize overhead before squatting.
Kenney burned his hands on the handstand walk, and struggled to finish his last five reps.
“I felt fine going into it, but for some reason, the overhead squats started out bad, and I just had to hang on,” Kenney said. “It was my grip and my shoulders. I feel good. I didn’t really have the best weekend, but I was able to come out and to get in position for a Games spot. I’m happy with coming in wherever I came, that I had a chance.”
Kenney took more than three minutes to finish the event, but the 16th-place finish was still good enough for the third place overall in the weekend, and he will be heading out to the Games for the first time.
Hobart has been an instrumental member of CFNE Team A for the past three years, and will also be making a return trip to Carson as an individual for the first time in four years.
“I knew coming into this workout that I had to finish in the top 12,” Hobart said. “So I had practiced a lot of stuff, but I just focused on not tripping on the mat or doing something stupid. It feels great to be going back to Carson. I’m humbled, and excited. And so fortunate to be supported by so many people, so yeah, I’m stoked.”
Fraser set another event record to close out the weekend. He was first off his pull-up bar, then squat snatched the weight and banged out seven overhead squats, making it look like a warm-up bar. On his last one, he stood up, and held the bar overhead, smiling at the judge and waiting for the confirmation that he was done. He sprinted to the finish mat, and celebrated both the new event record and his decisive North East win.
“Well, I’d say this final workout went great,” Fraser said. “It was overhead squats, so you know, it went well.”
The former Olympic weightlifter is looking forward to his trip to Carson.
“Oh, I’m excited,” Fraser said. “I’m not changing anything, just going to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Hendel and Malleolo finished the final event in third and fifth place and the weekend in fourth and fifth place, tied with 60 points each.
Event 7 Results
1. Mathew Fraser (1:38)
2. Trevor James (1:55)
3. Spencer Hendel (2:01)
1. Mathew Fraser (18)
2. James Hobart (47)
3. Craig Kenney (48)
While 13 women worldwide have made it back to the rower, none have finished.
With just one point separating first place from second and third at the beginning of Day 3, no one’s spot on the podium was safe.
Games athlete Kalenna Ladeairous set the time to beat on Heat 3, and no other ladies were able to touch it.
“I had done a little better once in practice, and a little worse once,” Ladeairous said. “It was hot out there; that definitely played a part. And the transitions—it was a lot of transition. My legs were shot from the whole weekend. I feel good about it, though. I feel good about today. I like (the workouts) today.”
Games veteran Stacey Kroon missed all three attempts on the snatch on Day 1, but climbed up the Leaderboard with three fifth-place finishes.
“My dreams and hopes were dashed in the snatch event,” Kroon said. “This is my sixth regional showing, and thought I could really make it this year. But after that, I just wanted to prove to myself and everyone that I’m still Games quality.”
Games athlete Cheryl Nasso competed in the North East for the first time. She had her best performance of the weekend on Event 6, winning her heat with 10 more box jump overs than Horan, and took second place for the Event.
“Whenever I go out on the field, no matter what it is, I want to give it everything I have,” Nasso said. “This has been a really tough weekend for me. For this event, I just told myself not to stop ... pick the bar back up, get back on the rings and not to get in my head about the no-reps.”
Horan, who came into the day tied for second with Martinez, knew exactly what she had to do if she wanted a repeat win in the North East.
Once she got back to her second set of deadlifts, she turned it up and pushed the hardest she had throughout the event.
“It’s like rowing a 5 km on the erg,” Horan said. “You just keep going.”
Two of the shortest athletes on the field, Barden and Martinez both struggled with their wall-ball shots, and ended up with their worst finishes of the weekend. At one point, Barden put chalk on her chest—she was so sweaty that the ball was slipping through her hands, hitting her chest and falling.
“Dani shot out ahead early, so I just focused on staying ahead of Rachel (Martinez) and Rachel (Goldenberg),” Barden said. “That’s what I needed to do to stay in the mix. It could have gone better, but it could have gone a lot worse.”
Horan moved into the No. 1 spot overall with Barden in second and Martinez in third, as they moved into the last event of the weekend.
Event 6 Results
1. Kaleena Ladearious (21:23)
2. Cheryl Nasso (22:14)
3. Jenny Davis (22:16)
The women floated like butterflies on the bars as they got through their 64 pull-ups before picking up the barbells and feeling the sting of the last movement of the weekend: heavy overhead squats.
With three former gymnasts in the last heat, the women put on a clinic for efficiency on the pull-ups.
Games athlete Jessa Lemoine was first off the pull-ups, and was all smiles as she completed the overhead squats unbroken and stepped onto the finish mat.
“These are two of my favorite movements,” Lemoine said. “Out of all of the workouts, this is the only one I walked away from the floor happy.”
Martinez came off the pull-up bar just behind Lemoine, then tried to catch up on the overhead squats, but finished the event in second place, 10 seconds behind Lemoine.
Martinez was scared to look at the Leaderboard after Event 6, but finally gave in, realizing she was still in third place, six points out of fourth.
“This was a good workout for me,” Martinez said, "but I knew if I went out too hard, something could go wrong. I’ve seen it in the past regions. So Ben (Bergeron) said to stay at about 85 to 90 percent and I could still probably stay ahead. I never felt uncomfortable out there, just felt good.”
Martinez competed on the CrossFit New England team in 2013 and helped them to a second-place finish at the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games.
“My whole goal this weekend was to just stay in the moment,” Martinez said. “I haven’t thought ahead (to the Games) yet. I guess I can start thinking about that now. I didn’t think of it before it happened. I focused on one workout at a time. But I know I have a lot ahead of me.”
Barden will also be taking her first trip to Carson this July. She finished the event in sixth place, which was enough to clinch her third-place finish.
“I knew I didn’t need to win this one,” Barden said. “It’s a great feeling knowing that now the board resets to zero, we all start again in the same spot. This has been two years and seven months in the making. I can’t wait (for the Games).”
Horan finished the event in 2:33 and once again earned her spot at the top of the podium.
“It feels great now that it's over,” Horan said. “This year, I’m going out a few weeks early to train with Brian Mackenzie. It was hard last year, even just the time change. I mean, I live in Vermont,” she laughed. “So this year I’m going early. Brian does all my (endurance) programming, so I’ll go out and get acclimated. I’m ready.”
Event 7 Results
1. Jessa Lemoine (2:08)
2. Rachel Martinez (2:18)
3. Stacey Kroon (2:23)
1. Dani Horan (26)
2. Sheila Barden (32)
3. Rachel Martinez (39)