Skip Miller and his team are no strangers to the CrossFit Games Regional competition. Owner and head coach at Front Range CrossFit in Denver, Colorado, Miller’s athletes have competed in individual and team categories each year since 2008.
“We’re the only affiliate in the world to qualify every year,” he said.
Miller said he uses a simple formula to build solid teams that qualify for regionals: keep it fun and demand the best.
“We don’t recruit athletes,” he said. “We work with the people who come in and make them the best they can be.”
To build out his team, Miller said he focuses on all-around athletes—a strategy he’s relied on since 2011.
“I stopped compiling a team with one big, muscle guy and one small gymnast and instead focused on the all-around team,” Miller said.
So far, the strategy has worked. In 2011, the team placed first in the South West Regional. In 2012, teams from Front Range claimed second and 10th in the regional competition. And in 2013, it claimed the No. 2 spot again.
With the rule change regarding individual athlete scores in the Open, this year might be a bit different from previous years.
“We’re an underdog team,” he said. “It’s a very wide open field in the South West Region.”
Miller said he doesn’t like to make predictions, but his athletes are confident they won’t let their coach down.
“We’re all dedicated and ready to go,” said team member Colleen Maher.
At 19, Maher is a veteran team member, helping the team qualify in 2010, 2011 and 2013. In 2012, she competed as an individual and went on to earn 40th place at the CrossFit Games.
Maher said preparing for the team competition is distinctly different from the individual competition.
“On the team, it’s about knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” she said. “But you have people to lean on. I like being part of a group I can count on and at the same time, they’re counting on me.”
A lacrosse player in high school and used to team sports, Maher said communication is key.
“You have to work on communication,” she said. “It’s all about knowing when your teammate will need you to step in and take over.”
Since February, Front Range team members have been participating in team workouts twice a week to address those weaknesses.
“My weakness is strength,” said team member Erica Drennen. “I come from an endurance background—running and rowing. … I’ve been spending a lot of time in the weight room.”
An individual athlete at the 2013 Regional, Drennen said she enjoys the camaraderie team competition reinforces.
“In a regular (workout), it’s just you and the clock,” she said. “With the team, you have a certain amount of work to do within a time period. There’s a lot of communication that needs to happen. … I’m excited to have a good crew this year.”
In addition to Maher and Drennen, the team consists of Louisa Berky, Erin Lamb, Erik Anderson, Matt Petty, Micah Dolcourt-Silver and Javier Delcastillo.
“CrossFit is a good way to round out my life,” Delcastillo said. “They say one’s ‘first place’ in a community is the home and the ‘second place’ is work. CrossFit Front Range is the third place.”
Army veteran and first-time regional athlete Dolcourt-Silver echoed his teammate’s sentiment.
After leaving active duty in 2011, Dolcourt-Silver said he recognized the need to find a community that would help him work toward his fitness goals.
“When I arrived in Denver, I signed for my goods and then I signed up for CrossFit,” he said laughing.
Dolcourt-Silver said he didn’t begin CrossFit with the intention of competing, but as he progressed, competition was the next logical step.
“Skip is good about helping you set goals and work toward them,” he said.
Although he is the only member of the team who hasn’t competed in a regional competition, Dolcourt-Silver said the team has worked well together to prepare for the events.
“The team is really good about focusing on the common goal while still keeping it fun,” he said, adding that he appreciates the support his teammates have given him throughout preparation.
“I need to work on staying calm in the workouts,” he said. “I can get anaerobic pretty quickly … (my teammates) are always telling me to breathe.”
As the South West Regional approaches, the team and its coach are excited.
“We’re lucky with the people who come through our doors,” Miller said. “We’re going to go out there, like we always do, and do our best.”