Jen Wielgus, Stephanie Vincent, Kym Escobar and Jen Sylvester
The Mid Atlantic Regional is over and three men, three women and three teams are going to California.
Brian Quinlan must have realized, sometime soon after dropping off the bar and starting the farmers carry, that he was on his way to the CrossFit Games. By pulling way ahead of Steve Pinkerton in the final Mid Atlantic Regional event he wrapped up the third and final spot on the championship podium.
But he couldn’t let that dream-come-true sink in.
“I still can’t believe it,” said Quinlan, who finished 18th at last year’s Regionals and 24th in this year’s Open. He started Mid Atlantics with a 17th place finish on Diane.
Now, the 35-year-old owner of CrossFit Explode in West Chester, PA, will accompany veteran Games competitors Ben Smith and Nate Schrader to Carson, CA, in July. Talk about a Cinderella story.
“I never considered that I would be here,” Quinlan said. “I was focused on my team (who also competed at Regionals) and making sure they did well, and I just wanted to do this one more time. I’m 35, and I just wanted one more shot at competing as an individual.”
Smith set a world record in Event 6, breezing through the gauntlet of deadlifts, muscle-ups, wall balls, toes-to-bar, farmers carry and burpee box jumps in 13:24. He obliterated the competition all weekend long, finishing first in all but one event, and flat-out cruised to his fourth CrossFit Games bid.
“Every year, I feel like I’ve been getting better,” said Smith, who finished third in the 2011 Games. “Hopefully, I’ll keep getting better going into the Games and make a good run there.”
Schrader placed third in Event 6 but had already wrapped up second place overall going into the event. Although he’s been battling shoulder and back problems and started off the weekend by finishing 13th on Diane, he said he expected all along to reach the podium.
Meanwhile, Quinlan entered the final event locked in a tie for third with Steve Pinkerton of CrossFit Vitality in Charlotte, N.C. Pinkerton said the event would come down to who could handle more pain, “and unfortunately, if there’s anyone who can handle that amount of pain, it’s Brian [Quinlan].”
Quinlan handled the toes-to-bar more deftly, and that made all the difference. After he and Pinkerton stayed pretty much neck and neck through the deadlift/muscle-up portion of the event, Quinlan pulled away on the next phase, going out to start the farmers carry at the 12 minute mark.
Pinkerton was the final man in Heat 3 to finish his toes-to-bar. Neither he nor Quinlan finished under the 17-minute time cap, but Quinlan was only three reps short, compared to Pinkerton’s 20.
“I think he’s got a longer torso, and it’s tough to cover that range,” said Quinlan, who stands six feet tall, compared to Pinkerton’s 6-5. “I had a little bit easier time covering that range. Once I pulled ahead, mentally, I think it’s hard to overcome that. I’ve been there before, and it’s tough.”
When the final horn sounded, Quinlan ran down the floor to Pinkerton and gave him a hug, almost lifting him completely off the ground.
Quinlan will be getting lots of hugs and pats on the back in the coming weeks and months before heading to the Games. Schrader, who’s been there before, has the following advice for the newbie:
“Enjoy yourself, have fun, but don’t get complacent just being there. Try to be competitive.”
The ladies entered into Event Six with the top three fairly locked into place, but that didn't stop the excitement to find out who would come out on top in a workout that no women worldwide had finished. The field was cut down to the top 18 women and broken up into three heats. In the first heat Melissa Jamerino dominated from start to finish. She got through 20 burpee box jump when the time cap was called. Jamerino, a former swimmer who has only been CrossFitting for a year says, "Muscle-ups are my favorite." Her finish was the 4th best of the event. Jamerino, who is all smiles, seems starstruck to be competing with the Mid Atlantic's top ladies. Jamerino ends this competition, her first CrossFit competition ever, in tenth place. She is one to watch in the years to come.
Heat Two was notably missing Emily Pale. Pale, who injured her shoulder during the snatch ladder, had to make the difficult decision to withdraw from the competition in order to not risk further injury. Heat Two's best finish was from Ashleigh Woods, with the 7th best score in the Event.
Heat Three brought out the top six: Michelle Benedict, Michelle Crawford, Tanya Wagner, Gretchen Kittelberger, Christy Phillips and Jenn Jones. The expectations ran high that one of these ladies would finish the workout in the time cap. Throughout the deadlift and muscle-ups Phillips, Kittelberger and Jones raced head to head. Phillips took the lead into the wall balls and toes-to-bar and after three rounds was first to the dumbbell carry. Then suddenly Crawford was right on her heels. They both started attacking the burpee box jumps, but Crawford's pace was faster. It was looking like she just might finish the Event within the time cap. She got back to the muscle-up station with less than 30 seconds to go, but wasn't able to complete any. Although it was disappointing that Crawford would not be the first lady to finish the Event, her score still made her first in the region on Event Six. Crawford said she thought that she was going to finish the workout. However she was happy about a first place finish and says this was her kind of event. "I'm a longer met con girl." When the dust settled, Crawford was followed by Jones and Phillips tied for 2nd, then Jamerino, and then Kittelberger.
Wagner never got past the muscle-up and deadlift portion of the event. Before the Event Wagner knew she didn't have much left in the tank. She said, "I only have so much left in my body," and planned on doing one rep at a time, rather than trying to do sets. However, no one missed the huge smile Wagner had on her face. She said, "I thought I'd be so far behind it’d be funny." Wagner finishes the competition in 5th place. She says it’s crazy to be in the top five. Wagner is looking forward to one thing now that the competition is over and her eyes become teary as she talks about it: going home to her son A.J.
In fourth place overall is Crawford, just missing out on qualifying for the games. She says she had hopes of the podium but talks about how last year she didn't even make the cut for day three. She says she is going to, "Go back, take a few days off and then go to work." She is going to do all she can to get back to Regional competition again next year.
Kittelberger will be returning to the Games again, finishing in third place where she sat all weekend. She is excited to go again because she didn't want to be a "one hit wonder." She said she is more nervous this year than last. She says the competition was tighter than it was in 2011. She calls her performance "consistent but not spectacular." According to Kittelberger, "Third is the same as first; the real show is in July."
The Mid Atlantic veteran, Phillips, was less stressed this year than last. She finished in 2nd place. The shining moment for Phillips was taking number one on Event 4. The Mid Atlantic region loves Phillips and it shows each time she walks out onto the floor. The region will be rooting for her when she returns once again to California this summer.
The superstar of the weekend was the first place finisher Jenn Jones. Jones was top three in each event with two first places, two second places and two third places. Last year at Regionals Jones just missed qualifying, when she tied for 4th with Pale. She says last year’s competition was more just for fun but she got more serious in 2012 and says she had a "game plan." Her plan paid off and impressed the crowd all weekend. Jones is "super excited" about going to the Games for the first time. She says she is going to have some ice cream, and will take some rest even though she says if she had it her way, she'd be back in the gym tomorrow.
CrossFit Greensboro killed Event 6. Even though RAW Training dominated the men’s portion, the CrossFit Greensboro ladies, represented by Cameron Williams and Tracy Shuford, sped through the muscle-ups and took over the lead as they headed into the wall balls. They never looked back. They finished with a time of 13:18 while all other teams were still on wall balls and more than four minutes ahead of second place team CrossFit Reston. CrossFit Explode finished third.
Muscle-ups were by far the deciding factor. The Greensboro team made them look easy, but other teams seriously struggled with this complex gymnastic movement. It took the RAW Training women nearly 13 minutes to complete their 20 muscle-ups. Acacia Elkins of District CrossFit did all of the reps since her partner, Kate Garufi, couldn’t do muscle-ups. Each partner had to complete one muscle-up after the partner carry. It was as if the competition was in pause mode while woman tried multiple times to get their final rep. CrossFit Wilmington, CrossFit Inspire, CrossFit Invoke and Outlaw CrossFit joined the top three in completing the Event.
In the overall standings, CrossFit Greensboro dominated. The team racked up only 14 points over the course of the six events. “It’s surreal to be at the top,” said Coach John Meeks. “I told our team going into this that we are a team no one knows. Now we are the team to beat. We strive to win each event. While we didn’t do that every time, we’ve delivered some solid performances that kept us at the top of the Leaderboard.”
In a 3-way tie for second with 32 points were CrossFit Wilmington, RAW Training and Crossfit Explode. Games rules dictate that the tie goes to the team with the highest single finish in another event. CrossFit Wilmington won Event 2 and RAW Training won Event 5, leading to a double tie breaker, which is decided by looking at the other finishes. The tie went to CrossFit Wilmington because the team finished second in Events 4 and 5. RAW Training’s next closest finish was third in Event 2.
After a grueling weekend of competition, the Mid Atlantic Region will be represented by three amazing teams – two from North Carolina that didn’t make it to the big event last year and one from a Pittsburgh suburb that is hoping three’s a charm.
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