Separation continued on Saturday at the North West Regional in Kent, Washington.
After CrossFit Marysville set a regional event record for Event 5 with a time of 7:09 in the team competition, Ben Stoneberg set a record for Event 4 with a blistering time of 8:44.
In addition, two big surprises occurred this afternoon.
The first happened during Event 4 on the women's side.
Reigning regional champ Rory Zambard barely completed the handstand push-up, front squat, burpee event, which caused her to fall into fourth place after Day 2. She’ll need a strong showing tomorrow to make it to Carson this summer.
The second surprise is atop the men’s Leaderboard.
Cody Anderson’s relentless performance in the last heat of the day’s Event 5 lifted him to second place overall. Anderson now sits between presumed front-runners Cole Sager and Stoneberg.
Stoneberg put on the performance of the weekend thus far. By the six-minute mark in Event 4, Stoneberg was far distant from all other competitors. Nearing the finish, Stoneberg leapt the bar for his final burpee and landed in the red square. The crowd exploded.
Stoneberg’s performance was the most impressive single performance of the first two days. Not only did he easily outdistance his North West competitors, but he beat Rich Froning and Scott Panchik’s regional record of 9:41 with a time of 8:44.
"I had no idea I was going to break a record," Stoneberg said. "I kinda knew I was out in front but I was just going. I wasn't paying attention to anyone else, I was just going as fast as I could. I'm sitting in third so I'm happy with that. I need to get top three, so I need to keep it going. A couple more events to go and I have a little bit of cushion so hopefully I can keep it together."
Other than the clash between Stoneberg and Sager, Anderson is the biggest story from the men’s competition. Anderson finished third in Event 4, but he would save fireworks for the men’s last event.
Anderson was thrilled with his Event 4 performance and said, “I came in with no expectation, but my goal was to get top 50 percent. So (I’m) exceeding my goal so far.”
After Event 4, Anderson stood third on the overall Leaderboard.
Eighteen year-old Samuel Kwant, the youngest competitor at regionals worldwide, clobbered Heat 2, announcing he has a bright CrossFit future.
"On Event 4, I expected to do pretty good,” he said. “I didn't think I'd win my heat, though. I knew I was pretty good at the strict handstand push-ups and front squats are pretty good for me. I just had to go through the burpees and I'm good at burpees."
On being the youngest competitor at the regional, Kwant said, "It means a lot. And I kinda like it because there's not a bunch of expectation on me. I like being the youngest. I like being the underdog. It's pretty fun."
Event 4 Results
1. Ben Stoneberg (8:44)
2. Dan Sagers (10:13)
3. Cody Anderson (10:34)
As anticipated, Event 5 proved to be a quick one. But the top finishers were unexpected.
Tate Vladic of Alternative Athletes CrossFit clamored up the rope and sprinted to his chess piece 10 times in a searing 3:36. Vladic beat some of the world’s best athletes, including Central East’s Graham Holmberg’s time of 3:43 and Froning’s time of 3:44.
"My strategy was to keep going and not slow down my pace at all and even pick it up throughout because I knew how hard it was going to be after the sixth round,” Vladic said. “After that, I knew I had to keep my same pace with the run and had to keep the run up and not slow down at all."
But the North West’s second-place finisher, Anderson, wasn’t far behind Vladic’s time. Anderson finished Heat 4 in 3:48, while Sager came within seconds at 3:50.
Sager turned on the heat at the end to finish in a tie for third.
"I saw where he (Cody) was,” Sager said. “I know that he has a gymnast's background and is smaller, so I knew he was going to be fast on that rope climb. I had to dig deep and just go."
The footrace between Anderson and Sager was tight, making a thrilling conclusion for the end of the competition’s second day. Sager sprinted to the rope and climbed to the top first, with Anderson close behind. The athlete from Central Oregon CrossFit kept pace with Sager through the first four climbs and stayed within yards of his heels.
After the sixth climb and sprint, Anderson made his move. He overtook the CrossFit Deliverance athlete and kept his lead through the remainder of the event. Sager slowed his pace while Anderson kept pushing, buffering his lead.
In the end, Anderson used his body-weight skills to pull himself into second place, usurping Stoneberg and Austin Stack, who took 21st and 25th place, respectively. Sager tied for third place with Robert Sax of CrossFit Amped.
The skills required in today’s events showcased the athleticism and strength of these competitors. With the Leaderboard shifting as it did today, the first-, second- and third-placed men truly have yet to be decided.
Event 5 Results
1. Tate Vladic (3:36)
2. Cody Anderson (3:48)
3. Cole Sager (3:50)
1. Cole Sager (16)
2. Cody Anderson (18)
3. Ben Stoneberg (30)
4. Austin Stack (54)
5. Kaylor Hasbargen (55)
6. Jesse Disch (70)
7. Anthony Weidner (73)
8.Drew Barquist (74)
9. Eric Showman (75)
10. Andy Rosebaum (76)
Only six points separated four women entering the last heat of Event 4. Each hoped to keep herself in the top three.
Carleen Lessard and Zambard sat high on the Leaderboard. Regan Huckaby and Karen McCadam were both within striking distance of the top three.
And as Event 4 unfolded, Huckaby and McCadam did themselves serious favors on the Leaderboard.
During the round of 21s and 15s, the lead bounced back and forth between Huckaby and McCadam. But pretty soon, Huckaby’s handstand push-ups started to slow, while McCadam continued to power through hers effortlessly. In the next few minutes, McCadam continued to separate herself from the field, eventually finishing in 12:02, good enough for first place.
Former gymnast Emily Carothers, who entered the event in the top spot, chipped away, eventually passing Huckaby and placing second with a time of 12:22.
Carothers explained how she made up time: “I just stuck to my plan and stayed steady with it. I got no-repped on several handstand push-ups in a row, so I had to regroup and adjust what I was doing. I made up time where I could.”
Despite scoring well, Huckaby remained humble.
“I wasn’t sure how that was going to go for me,” she said. “In practice, I struggled with the handstand push-ups a bit more. I didn’t even look at the Leaderboard. I had no expectations coming in here, so being where I’m at is just icing on the cake.”
For Zambard—looking to return to Carson for the second year in a row—she knew handstand push-ups were going to cause her some issues.
“Handstand push-ups are a definitive weakness. And especially strict ones. You take my hips out and all I have is long arms,” said Zambard, who has consistently received the loudest cheers from the crowd all weekend.
After finishing ninth, Zambard stepped onto the finish mat and threw her hands in the air with a huge smile.
McCadam spoke about winning the heat: “I was a little surprised to find myself out in front. I couldn’t hear what they were saying so I just kept on going. I went all out on the handstand push-ups because that is one of my strengths.”
Event 4 Results
1. Karen McCadam (12:02)
2. Emily Carothers (12:22)
3. Regan Huckaby (12:46)
The only woman with a bit of a cushion in Event 5 was Carothers. She entered in first place with just eight points. None of her four closest competitors—Huckaby, McCadam, Lessard and Zambard—could afford to struggle.
No one was surprised when Carothers took the early lead and kept it for the duration of the event. She finished in 5:32, easily winning. She looked even stronger on the rope than she did at last year’s CrossFit Games where she excelled at the legless rope climb.
“I have trained for this the entire year, plus I have invested a lot of my time and my heart, worked with my coaches and their programming,” Carothers said. “It has been an entirely different year leading up to this from last year. I am going to stick to my game plan, not pay attention to anybody that comes out of the gates really hot, just do what I prepared.”
After the fourth climb, Huckaby started pulling away ever so slightly from her training partner, McCadam. She would finish second with a time of 5:59.
“We practiced those rope climbs probably a dozen times,” Huckaby said. “I knew I had to pace it. It wasn’t a sprint. I was going to kip it, but I ended up going with the quicker stair step … and it just worked out.”
McCadam and Zambard finished all 10 rope climbs. But Lessard, who entered the event in second, got stuck on her sixth rope climb for a number of minutes. She failed to complete within the time cap. She finished 16th and tumbled to fifth overall in the standings.
Heading into the final day of competition, second-placed Huckaby couldn’t be happier.
“I feel good … there were so many girls in that heat who pushed me,” she said.
Despite her solid position at the moment, she said she’s still not looking at the Leaderboard. That strategy is working for her so far.
Meanwhile, last year’s top female athlete continued to slide. Zambard finished eighth in Event 5 and now lies in fourth overall behind McCadam and narrowly in front of the persistent Lessard.
Zambard’s best hope now lies in the first event of Day 3. She has suggested the 50s event plays to her strengths. Without a superb performance, the defending North West champ might not return to the Games.
Event 5 Results
1. Emily Carothers (5:32)
2. Regan Huckaby (5:59)
3. Brittany Chestnut (6:02)
1. Emily Carothers (9)
2. Regan Huckaby (24)
3. Karen McCadam (29)
4. Rory Zambard (38)
5. Carleen Lessard (38)
6. Kim Reinhardt (41)
7. Brittany Chestnut (44)
8. Capri Morton (64)
9. Jennifer Howitt (64)
10. Molly Hunsinger (65)