What do you do in a card game, when you're handed a stacked deck? If you're CrossFit New England, shuffle it.
A CrossFit Games team is a house of cards built on a wobbly foundation of muscle-ups, handstand push-ups, and other skills. The right combination of teammates -- put together just so -- is the magic something that makes some house of cards stand, while others collapse -- or so I thought.
CrossFit New England has changed their roster almost every year since 2009, and yet they've still managed to make the CrossFit Games Affiliate Cup podium for two years running.
Sure, the programming and coaching of the one-man-Jedi-council of team competition, Ben Bergeron, is an enormous asset. However, never having the same team twice should be the opposite.
They've changed up their team as much as the New England Patriots of the early 2000s. Like the Patriots, they keep it together with solid, well-rounded athletes and constant teamwork. They don't try to create a team of superstar ringers.
In 2009, team CFNE came in 15th place with Bergeron, Derek Mohamed, Harry Palley, Michelle Marshall, Ronda Rockett, and Elaine Polito on the roster.
The next year, Bergeron and Mohammed were the only two to stay on board. Alongside rookies Mat Frankel, Mel Ockerby, Jenna Gale and Lisa Mikkelsen, they made it to the finals.
Yet the musical GHDs were just getting started. In 2011, the team changed twice, yet still managed to sweep the North East Regional and take the title 2011 Fittest Team on Earth.
Mohammed, Frankel, and Lisa Mikkelsen were the only constants between 2010 and 2011. At Regionals, they were joined by Jason Caldas, Heather Bergeron, and Sonia Cormier. By the Games, James Hobart replaced Caldas and Mel Ockerby stepped in for Bergeron.
Are you following this? Don't worry, the history lesson is over. Here's the deal for this year.
Frankel, Mikkelsen, and Cormier are out.
The Ockerbeast, Mohamed, and James Hobart remain.
Kevin Montoya, Ali LeBlanc, and Ally Bushey are the new kids.
You've seen him in CrossFit.com WOD demos. Montoya beat Austin Malleolo and took the overall win of the 77-kilo class at the CrossFit/USAW Open. He brings some additional top-end strength to the mix. But perhaps not the same engine Frankel is famous for.
LeBlanc is an exceptionally strong athlete with a 175-pound snatch and a 200-pound jerk, coupled with very high work capacity. She can lift, but she can also do Fran in 3:47.
Surely it hurts to lose Mikkelsen’s speed and experience, but Bushey brings a well-rounded skill set, and according to Bergeron, "strong work ethic and terrific lower body muscular endurance.”
The reigning champions have their sights set on the Home Depot Center, seemingly determined not to do it the same way twice.
“Our goal is to win the [North East] Regional and move on to the Games," Bergeron says. "If we win a bunch of the WODs and set a world record or two along the way … gravy."
The only thing certain about this team is they’ll come to play on game day. What do you do in card game when you’re handed a stacked deck? If you’re CrossFit New England, shuffle it.