Ashley Van Horne
"When I tell Kris (Clever) how overwhelming the Games seems, she just says 'Jamie, you can do this. You can do the Games. You can,' and it has really helped my confidence."
The ladies of SoCal are a tough crowd.
Two of the three women on the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games podium also stood on the podium at the SoCal Regional just a month earlier. Those competing at the Del Mar Fairgrounds clearly have their work cut out for them amongst the likes of second and third fittest on Earth Lindsey Valenzuela and Valerie Voboril.
SoCal is also home to six-time Games competitor Rebecca Voigt and 2010 CrossFit Games champion Kristan Clever, both of whom headed to the Games after the SoCal Regional last year.
So one may wonder: why on Earth would other highly competitive women choose to stay in the region?
Who better to ask than last year’s SoCal rookie and fifth-place regional finisher Jamie Hagiya.
Hagiya, a former professional basketball player and Torrance CrossFit co-founder, has chosen to embrace the competitiveness of her region.
“I think last year, knowing that I was going up against the top women in the world in my own backyard made me approach regionals with a ‘nothing to lose’ attitude,” she said. “I try to maintain that attitude, take a deep breath and just try my best.”
She said Southern California has developed more Games-caliber competitors than there are qualifying spots.
“If you look at the SoCal Region, we could send a legit seven to eight women to the Games every year,” Hagiya said. “And those girls would all compete for podium spots!”
The thought of moving to another region is tempting to any Southern Californian competitor seriously bent on making it to the Games.
“We always joke that I should move to Japan, since I’m Japanese, and open up a box and just qualify for the Games out there,” Hagiya laughed. “But as amazing as it would be to qualify for the Games, my life is here and I wouldn’t change everything just to qualify.”
So she is left with one option: get better. To do so, she’s befriended the other leading ladies in the region, most notably Clever and Voigt.
“The craziest thing about CrossFit is the camaraderie among the competitors,” she said. “I am so lucky that Kris Clever, Becca Voigt and everyone at Valley CrossFit has taken me under their wing.”
And she’s used the opportunity to watch and learn.
“I’ve learned so much by watching Kris and the fact that she just never seems to red line,” Hagiya said. “She never gasses out.”
However, Hagiya finds a second component more important than the physical.
“But the mental part of it has been the most important,” she explained. “Both (Clever and Voigt) have given me a million cues, but when I tell Kris how overwhelming the Games seems, she just says ‘Jamie, you can do this. You can do the Games. You can,’ and it has really helped my confidence.”
Voigt echoes Clever’s confidence in Hagiya.
“She has what it takes, period,” Voigt said. “I have no advice for her; I can't give away all my secrets.”
Since Hagiya has been doing CrossFit for less than two years while others in the region have been developing their skills for six to seven years, some question whether Hagiya has spent enough time in the training regimen and sport to beat the region’s veterans.
“There’s always going to be naysayers, and I hear haters say that I don’t belong in CrossFit or whatever,” she said.
As a 5-foot-3 point guard, she is used to having to prove herself in sport.
“I have dealt with that from being in high school trying to make it to play basketball in college and hearing that I was too small and being Asian-American in a sport that doesn’t have many Asian Americans,” she explained.
But the negativity she faced then didn’t get to her. Hagiya went on to receive a basketball scholarship at USC and has since given her time to working hard both on and off the court and in CrossFit.
“The thing I love about CrossFit is that your work proves everything for itself,” Hagiya said. “... In CrossFit, it’s just you, your work ethic and your preparation. And it speaks for itself.”
When score submissions for 14.1 closed on Monday, Hagiya sat in second place in the region and 22nd worldwide with 405 reps—just two reps shy of two-time CrossFit Games champion Annie Thorisdottir.
“I really liked 14.1,” Hagiya said. “I watched and paid attention to when everyone was burning out and tried to strategize, but when I did the workout, it just happened. I cleared my mind of everything, and just went.”
Hagiya channeled her inner-Clever and never gassed out.
“I never redlined and kept a steady pace, and it paid off,” Hagiya said.
This former rookie is not only proud and dedicated, but also humbled by the chance to be considered a true competitor amongst the SoCal women.
“Just to be up against these amazing, powerful women every day in this region makes me proud to be here,” she said. “I know if I continue attack my weaknesses and compete hard, my work will speak for itself. Being around the best women doesn’t just make me work hard—it’s also just really cool to me.”
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