"As sore and horrible as I felt, and miserably in pain, I feel like it was all worth it. I watch (the Games) every year so I'm excited to see where I stand amongst those girls," Holly Mata said.
With a tight race at the top, it all came down to the competitor's speed through Event 7’s 15-foot rope climbs and heavy squat cleans.
In ten minutes or less, the final event broke some competitors and allowed others to show that they have what it takes to compete at the CrossFit Games.
In the end, Jenn Jones, Mike McGoldrick, and CrossFit Dallas Central stood atop the 2013 South Central Regional podium. They were joined by Aja Barto, Roy Gamboa, Cassidy Lance, Holly Mata, Atomic CrossFit, and Get Lifted.
Just in case their bodies weren’t tired enough, the region’s fittest men had one workout left. The last event of the 2013 South Central Regional was a traditional high-intensity burner. While most men opted to take it easy on the transition between movements, they also poured every last bit of energy they had left into the event.
The competition was bittersweet for Chase Ingraham, who suffered a shoulder injury over a year ago, and wondered if he would ever compete again, but as of midday Saturday, he sat atop the Leaderboard. Now, at the end of day three, he dragged through the workout at the bottom of the second heat. He almost made a triumphant comeback, but looked weary and in pain as he completed his final Regional Event for 2013. Ingraham, a fan favorite, did not finish Event 7.
Mark Stewart stepped on the finish mat with a time of 05:23. His score would be the one to beat for the top 10 athletes.
For the final piece of action at the Freeman Coliseum, the fittest men in the South Central had one last chance to compete and make it to the Home Depot Center this July. When the action began, Barto set the pace, his 6-foot-5 stature giving him an advantage on the rope climbs. Not to be outdone, however, was Jason Hoggan who followed at his heels. As the clock ticked, Hoggan closed the gap on the squat cleans and began to distance himself from the competition. Barto and Hoggan remained close, but Hoggan’s tenacity and sprint to the finish would lead to his winning the event at 4:33, just 12 seconds off the world record time set by Spencer Hendel.
“It was good motivation just having him there,” Hoggan says of Barto being so close to him. “And then when I realized I was in front of him on the cleans, I couldn’t believe it. So I said, ‘OK, it’s time to turn on the burners,’ and just took it home. I almost lost it on that last clean but said I gotta go to that otherworldly place and stand it up and finish on a high note.”
Where Hoggan succeeded, however, Paul Smith suffered. The former NFL athlete, known for his extraordinary strength and physique, showcased an Achilles heel in Event 7 that would ultimately lead to his finish just off the podium. While his competition utilized explosive third pulls and touch-and-go methods, Smith found himself limited by a bone spur in his wrist, preventing a proper catch. His slower method of power cleaning each rep and then completing a crossed-arm front squat left him at a disadvantage. For the fourth year in a row, Smith was close but not close enough. He finished the workout in 11th place at 5:42, giving Roy Gamboa just the opening he was looking for to qualify for the CrossFit Games.
Barto followed shortly behind Hoggan in Event 7 with a time of 4:42, and McGoldrick finished in third with a time of 4:47.
1. Jason Hoggan (4:33)
2. Aja Barto (4:42)
3. Mike McGoldrick (4:47)
4. Jeff Germond (4:48)
5. Richard Bohlken (4:56)
1. Mike McGoldrick (60)
2. Aja Barto (64)
3. Roy Gamboa (72)
4. Paul Smith (74)
5. Jason Hoggan (75)
The South Central women hustled through their last four rounds of work for the weekend. For most of the competitors, it would be their final swing of the 2013 Games season.
In Heat 1, Veronica Pike, who impressed during the deadlift/box jump couplet in Event 5, once again set the pace for the day. She raced with Kimberley Azcarate of CrossFit the Human Laboratory, up until the last set of squat cleans; her ability to touch and go ultimately gave her the edge. She was the first to finish the workout with a time of 5:54.
The world then watched as the top 12 women competed in the final heat. With Jenn Jones’ top spot nearly secure, and Cassidy Lance’s slight edge, it seemed that the final fight would be between Holly Mata, Candice Ruiz and Ingrid Kantola for a third-place medal. At the sound of the buzzer, 5-foot-7 Kantola flew up and down the rope with primal intensity.
“I was thinking I had to win it to have a shot of moving on,” Kantola said. “So I had a plan, stuck to it and executed it exactly as I wanted to and went for broke. I knew I was good at rope climbs so I took a big jump and took two pulls and I was trying to be as fast as I could on the bar and kind of get my recovery on the run.”
From there, it would be a fight to catch her, but as hard as Mata and Ruiz tried, they could not pass her. While the finish was dramatic, it would not be enough to send her to California. Mata, of Get Lifted CrossFit, was close enough behind to retain her standing. While Kantola finished first, Ruiz came in second at 4:51 and powerhouse Jones rounded out the top three with a finishing time of 5:15.
1. Ingrid Kantola (4:38)
2. Candice Ruiz (4:51)
3. Jenn Jones (5:15)
4. Holly Mata (5:21)
5. Leah Shullenberger (5:29)
1. Jenn Jones (13)
2. Cassidy Lance (31)
3. Holly Mata (40)
4. Candice Ruiz (41)
5. Ingrid Kantola (44)
The Team Division of Event 7 saw a different set of challenges as those who were chosen to compete first would complete less reps of the heavy squat cleans than their teammates who followed. With this twist on the rep scheme, many of the teams chose to lead off the event with their weakest lifters, resulting in a couple of rocky starts.
In Heat 1, many found themselves either stuck in the bottom of the hole or having to power clean and then front squat to complete their reps. As the competitors progressed through the workout, and more proficient lifters took to the floor, strength and technique began to impress. In the first heat of the afternoon, none of the teams were able to complete the workout, but CrossFit EaDo came close, ending just 11 reps short.
In Heat 2, athletes pushed the pace to be the first to cross the finish line and Team BoomFit succeeded. With all competitors across on the finish mat at 16:12, the College Station team had set the time to beat for the final heat.
In the final appearance for the 10 fittest teams in the South Central, CrossFit Dallas Central, Atomic CrossFit and Get Lifted were determined to grab the coveted spots to Carson, Calif. In biggest contention was the third-place spot, at the time locked down by Get Lifted. In order to return to the Games, fourth-placed CrossFit Central would have to defeat their third-placed opponent by three positions on Event 7 — a feat that proved impossible. The final team event would be all about the Apes, as Get Lifted dominated the competition and claimed their podium position as final team member, Brenda Chavez crossed the finish line at 15:54.
Chavez, who managed to touch-and-go almost all the way through the workout said, “The cleans were actually tougher than I thought. I felt like I was going to break on every single one. It was that strong mentality that kept me going.”
That strong mentality paid off for Get Lifted, who will now be competing at the CrossFit Games. CrossFit Central finished Event 7 in second place at 16:03 followed by Team BoomFit with a time of 16:12.
For teams, CrossFit Dallas Central proved that steady performances win the race. CDC finished in the top six in every workout throughout the weekend, showcasing their experience level and ability to consistently perform.
“The key to our success is the unity of our team,” team member Audra LeBeau said. “We’re all so well-rounded and we didn’t do terrible on any one workout. It’s all about being consistent and we were all put in workouts where we were able to do so.”
The team ended with only 28 points, resulting in their second straight win at the South Central Regional.
Also booking their flights to California are Atomic CrossFit and Get Lifted who finished with 39 and 45 points, respectively.
If before this weekend, fans were asking, “Who is Jenn Jones?” they weren’t alone. The newcomer to the region rocked the South Central scene during the 2013 Open and the Regional was no different. Finishing up the weekend with just 13 points, Jones is the only female qualifier with previous individual Games experience.
Accompanying her to the 2013 CrossFit Games will be Cassidy Lance, from CrossFit Bolt, who finished in second place with 31 points.
“It’s surreal. It’s very humbling and I’m very excited,” Lance said.
Holly Mata is the final female to qualify with 40 points.
“I’m so excited,” Mata said. “As sore and horrible as I felt, and miserably in pain, I feel like it was all worth it. I watch [the Games] every year so I’m excited to see where I stand amongst those girls.”
New names and faces were the theme of the weekend. On the men’s side of the competition, two unaffiliated newcomers have qualified for the CrossFit Games.
Mike McGoldrick, who trains primarily out of his garage, finished the weekend with 60 points, and can claim of the title of Fittest Man in South Central for the next 12 months. Lacking experience, but certainly not talent, fans will get to see just how far his natural ability can take him when he travels to California in two months.
“It’s a dream come true,” McGoldrick said.
As he prepares for his debut at the CrossFit Games, he added that his plan is, “to go as crazy as I did this weekend. I’m excited to train for the Games. I’m excited to run, bike and swim. I love the mental challenge.”
In second place, Aja Barto finished with 64 points and is the only individual qualifier for the CrossFit Games who has previously represented the South Central Region in Carson.
“I’m incredibly excited,” Barto said. “It’s something I’ve seen for myself for a long time. I’m just more than blessed to come out of an awesome group of athletes. It’s better competition year in, year out. To continually make my way out of this Region is a huge honor.”
Twenty-six-year-old Roy Gamboa rounded out the top three with a score of 72 points. Gamboa, who has been doing CrossFit for a little over six months, is the third and final male to qualify for the CrossFit Games from the South Central.
“I have an awesome God who loves me in good and bad times,” Gamboa said.
Gamboa adds jokingly: “It hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m ready to get my tan on. I’m going to shake things up. God made me a competitor.”
Team Event 7
1. Get Lifted (15:54)
2. Team CrossFit Central (16:03)
3. Team BoomFit (16:12)
4. #TeamDensity (17:26)
5. CrossFit Dallas Central (17:31)
1. CrossFit Dallas Central (28)
2. Atomic CrossFit (39)
3. Get Lifted (45)
4. Team CrossFit Central (49)
5. CrossFit Katy (58)