You could not ask for a better start to the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games South West Regional with Castle Rock’s temperature teetering on 80 degrees and not a cloud in sight. Like racehorses lined up at the gates, a wave of anticipation swept through the air as athletes and fans alike filed into the gym at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, setting the stage for an action-packed day of competition.
There is a certain mutual admiration and respect that South West athletes share for one another; however, it does not deter their competitive spirit, as evidenced by the comments of CrossFit Scottsdale's Nick Zambruno, who finished the Open ranked 5th overall.
"I've been doing CrossFit for a year and I know who [Chris] Spealler and [Matt] Chan are," quipped Zambruno in sizing up the competition. "In the first WOD, I'm in the heat with them. It’s going to be awesome to do a workout with them and compare myself. They're the standard. If you want to get to the Games, you have to beat them."
While he wasn't rockin' his trademark pink tank top, CrossFit Initiative's Drew Canavero was his relaxed and limber self as he cruised to a top finish in the first heat of Workout 1. Canavero made big changes to his training this off-season, focusing more on quality of movement and range of motion—changes that apparently paid off after registering a time of 3:02.
Cody Jamison won Heat 2 with a time of 2:18, edging out Pat Burke by four seconds.
"It was dizzying," Burke said. "Upside down, right side up, upside down, right side up, faster. I was a couple seconds off what I wanted."
In Heat 3, Eric O’Connor bested the rest of the pack with a time of 3:03.
Nate Beard, who is a little more than a year removed from rupturing his Achilles tendon, had a strong start to the third heat. But he hit the proverbial wall on his last set of handstand push-ups, which ultimately added minutes to his time.
"Obviously it’s frustrating," Beard said. "I looked at the clock when I had just a few handstand push-ups left and I was at 2:18. It took me a full 3 minutes or more to get those last few. One no rep after another. But it’s competition and (there are) those unknowns.”
The crowd was licking their chops as the final heat of the first workout took the floor.
The legendary Chris Spealler, of CrossFit Park City, started strong and never stopped. Deadlift after deadlift, handstand push-up after handstand push-up, Speal powered through with ease to a record time of 1:52.
Rounding out the overall top three headed into Workout 2 were Spealler, Jamison and Shawn Woods.
Mary Beth Litsheim of CrossFit Red offered perhaps the best feel-good story from Workout 1. The 51-year-old showed no mercy in the first heat, using a combination of spot-on form and strength to power through Diane, finishing first in her heat with a time of 3:40.
CrossFit Draper's Hillari Eaton was all smiles after coming out on top of Heat 2 with a time of 3:01.
"I feel awesome. I feel that's a good start to the competition," she said.
The atmosphere was nothing short of electric entering the final heat, which pitted top athletes against each other, headlined by 17-year-old phenom Colleen Maher. With the crowd on their feet and rocking, the top women didn't disappoint.
There was parity across the board to start the final heat, with top athletes like Maher, Cherie Chan, Tiffany Hendrickson and Becky Conzelman going neck and neck. But it was CrossFit Venture athlete Natalie McLain who won the heat with a time of 2:11.
The overall top three headed into Workout 2 are McLain, Maher and Hendrickson.
The teams proved to be every bit as competitive.
The final round of 315 pound partner deadlifts proved difficult for more than a few of the female tandems, with a number of teams failing to finish the workout.
It was nothing short of a record-setting day.
In the first heat, Wasatch CrossFit Blue and Conviction were nipping at each other's heels, with the former besting the latter by a mere 9 seconds at 5:40.
In the second heat, no reps on handstand push-ups were prevalent and a majority of the teams registered slower times as a result. Ultimately, CrossFit Surge paced its way early on and surged ahead of CrossFit Unbroken and CrossFit 801, finishing with a time of 7:15.
The third heat proved to be worth the wait.
"Unofficial @FrontRangeCF new world record with 4:55 in Team Event 1 #CrossFit @CFGSouthWestReg," was the tweet heard around the CrossFit world following the conclusion of the third heat.
The third heat, in particular, was about as even as they come out of the gates, with each team’s 455 pound partner deadlifts nearly in unison. But as the workout progressed, three teams comprising usual suspects – Front Range CrossFit, Hacks Pack Ute and Bomb Squad – emerged from the pack.
When the dust settled, it was Front Range that finished with the best time of the day at 4:55.
Illustrating the level of competition of Workout 1, the leader of Hacks Pack Ute, veteran athlete Tommy Hackenbruck, tweeted of a slip-up that might have cost him the top spot in Heat 1.
"2nd. Got 1 no rep that cost time. All about speed on wod1. No real test of capacity for top four teams," he wrote.
Tiffany Lindsey-Richards, also a member of Ute’s team, summed it up ever so eloquently.
"It went pretty good,” she said. “Was it what we wanted? No. Second's always first loser."
If Workout 1 is to offer any indication of what's to come, we're in for one hell of a show.