In the sport of CrossFit, every second counts. That was the case on Day 3 of the South Central Regional at Freeman Coliseum.
Leading into the final event of the weekend, only seven points stood between six of the top men and a podium spot.
Despite his first-place lead during Days 1 and 2, Roy Gamboa’s 26th-place finish in the chipper of Event 6 had the crowd biting its nails to see how the Leaderboard was going to shake up at day’s end.
Seconds certainly made all the difference.
Gamboa finished his overhead squats 25 seconds after the first-place leader of the event, Jeff Germond, sending Germond from seventh to second place and knocking Gamboa out of his second trip to the Games.
On the women’s side, competition was equally as exciting, but not quite as heated. Last year’s first- and second-place qualifiers, Jenn Jones and Cassidy Lance, reclaimed their podium spots. Third place went to a four-time regional competitor, Amanda Schwartz, with a 23-point lead to last year’s third place finisher, Holly Mata.
Athletes had yet to complete the last 50 calories on the erg leading into the final heat of Event 6. The fastest time to beat in the South Central had been Antonio Reyes at 21:29 (22 calories in) as the men of the final heat walked onto the floor.
Caleb Christian was the first to finish the first 50-calorie row, but newcomer Jared Astle jumped into play right behind him and was the first to advance down the lane.
For box jump overs, Astle bounded laterally, side-to-side and just kept moving. Astle left all the men behind, onto the deadlifts, not stopping once except to roll his barbell to the next 10-rep marker.
“My goal was to just stick to my own pace,” Astle said.
Richard Bohlken was next to the wall-ball shot target, closely followed by Dusty Flores, who sported baby blue spandex tights today. Cody Spell, Jordan Cook and Caleb Christian also pulled through, gaining momentum for a turn of events to come.
Astle, once again, was the first to advance onto the dips, but things quickly shifted as Cody Spell caught up.
The rings were where this workout was won.
Astle kipped like crazy, shaking out his arms between sets. Several no-reps caused him to lose his lead.
“My strategy was to just stick to my own pace and not worry about everyone else,” he said. “It worked out until I got to the ring dips, and then it kind of failed me there. I got no-repped a lot, somewhere around 15 or 20 times. I didn’t go deep enough.”
Bohlken and Flores pulled ahead to be the first back onto the wall-ball shots, then Cook, Spell and Christian followed.
Last year’s Games qualifiers Roy Gamboa and Mike McGoldrick, did not make much noise throughout the event. Both started in the middle of the pack, but gradually fell behind as the workout ensued, finishing 26th and 19th in the event.
“My goal was to not redline it in the beginning, just to try to stay consistent,” Gamboa said.
Spell pulled by far into the lead, finishing his deadlifts just shy of the 17-minute mark, the first one back onto his box jumps. With less than four minutes left, Cook joined him around 17:30, and, by this point, it was all about bounding up and down to get back to the erg.
Gamboa watched from his deadlifts as the others advanced on the boxes and by 19:10 he finally joined them. At 19:39, Spell was back on the erg as the crowd only grew louder and the DJ cranked the music up.
Twenty-nine calories later, Spell accomplished his goal, and shook up the Leaderboard quite a bit—advancing from 10th place to sixth place, with only a five-point difference standing between him (77) and third place Bohlken (72).
“I went through the workout twice,” Spell said. “The first time, because I have self-induced asthma and I got an asthma attack through it, so I didn’t finish it. The second time though, I only finished the box jumps. When I knew 22 calories was going to be the time to beat, I knew it was going to be a tough one to get to.”
The event cost Gamboa his cozy lead, dropping him second to Cook. Gamboa was already mentally preparing for the last event of the day as he walked off the floor.
“My goal is to just finish strong, and however it turns out, I am happy with that,” Gamboa said.
Event 6 Results
1. Cody Spell (21:23)
2. Antonio Reyes (21:29)
3. Jeff Germond (21:36)
Sixty-four pull-ups and 8 overhead squats at 205 lb. were the only things that stood between the top seven men and a podium spot during final event of the weekend.
Cook was sitting comfortably in first place with a 15-point lead.
With only a six-point difference standing between second thorugh seventh, it truly was anyone’s for the taking.
Blink and you’d miss it. The men came off the bar quickly to run to the overhead squats.
Germond’s pure strength propelled him through to finish in 1:58.
But the first man to the bar was one of the last to the mat. Braden Torrez struggled to move through his eight overhead squats. One by one, as the other men finished, they gathered around both Torrez and Luke Mullen encourage them to finish.
Moments later, the top three men were declared and three new faces would be standing on the podium: Jordan Cook, Jeff Germond and Richard Bohlken.
“I can’t believe it,” Germond said after he realized he had qualified. “I have been to regionals for the past five years, but never once qualified. This past year, my coach (Spencer Arnold), told me we were going to do lots of work—pushing sleds for miles, rowing … for months on end. Lots of work on my engine. I really felt like it helped this weekend.”
Event 7 Results
1. Jeff Germond (1:58)
2T. Josh Littauer (2:04)
2T. Cameron Willson (2:04)
CrossFit Games Qualifiers
1. Jordan Cook (62)
2. Jeff Germond (78)
3. Richard Bohlken (81)
Event 6 was Amanda Schwartz’s opportunity to redeem her performance from 2013. She took the lead right from the start and was first off the erg.
All the women in the final heat were close behind. Schwartz did not stop once on her box jump overs though and was first to the deadlifts.
“I love box jumps and thought, ‘What do I have to lose?’” Schwartz said of her strategy. “So I went all out on the box jumps.”
Arielle Armstrong and Jessie Jo Young were right on her tail. Young’s endurance shone as she pulled ahead on the deadlifts. Schwartz did not quake either, although she briefly slowed to regain her composure while fatigue set in.
Once more, Young pulled ahead to be the first to the wall-ball shots, but met an unforeseen mental challenge that she fought to overcome.
“The wall ball hit underneath the glass on the rig several times and kept coming back over my head so it really threw off my strategy of going 10 at a time,” Young said. “By the end of it, I was just trying to get in as many as I could.”
Candice Ruiz, determined not to let a repeat of yesterday’s rope climb event happen, fought to pull ahead. She was the first off the wall-ball shots and on to the ring dips.
The chipper turned once more, as the ring dips also became a separating factor for the women.
Ruiz took a clear lead. That’s when Schwartz’s strategy changed.
“My goal was to just keep up with Candice,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz still had several reps to complete, with Jones right next to her. The women kept pace side-by-side, but Jones later said she felt like she broke down.
“I was excited for this one because I used to believe I could sustain a workable pace,” Jones said, “but I just think my quads were smoked from the weekend, and my knee, and the wall balls were significantly harder than they already are for me. It just kind of ate my lunch.”
With five years of regional competition and two appearances at the CrossFit Games, Ruiz made some noise as the clock ticked to 18:10 on her last 20 reps of deadlifts.
As she made her way to the box jumps at 19:01, Mata, Schwartz, Lance and Young were working hard to keep up with Ruiz.
Ruiz made it back to her erg just as 21 minutes was up.
“On this workout, I just trusted my gut,” Ruiz said. “I learned from my mistakes this weekend and just to listen to myself—to know when to push it, when to slow down. This was the first workout this weekend I did that and I want to finish strong. I am always top five, so I want to keep that,” Ruiz said.
Event 6 Results
1. Candice Ruiz (21:51)
2. Amanda Schwartz (22:19)
3. Holly Mata (22:20)
Lance’s gymnastics background came in handy on the final event of the South Central Regional.
She butterflied her way through 64 pull-ups in sets of 45, 10, and then nine. At a little more than a minute in, she complete eight 135-lb. overhead squats. By 2:02, she was on her mat.
Lance flashed her bright white smile, knowing she was going back to the CrossFit Games.
“I’m excited. I wanted to go back and that was my goal,” Lance said. “Last year, it wasn’t my goal. … This last event was my jam, so I was ready to win it.”
Jones fought with Malone for the second-place in Event 7, which ended in a tie at 2:06. Jones said she’s happy she can give her body a break after a long three days.
“I was a little worried since the first workout today didn’t work out as good,” Jones said, “but I stuck with my plan: four sets of 16, and just got through the overhead squats. My max is 235 lb. so it felt OK for me. Now that it’s over, I am going to Mexico tomorrow.”
Schwartz, who took revenge on her DNF from Event 2 at the 2013 regional, finished in seventh place, solidifying third place overall.
“I was most nervous about those squats all weekend—it was a mental challenge—so this was the cherry on top because I wasn’t even focusing on (qualifying),” Schwartz said. “I originally wasn’t even going to come out here to regionals this year, but with some encouragement I decided to just do it. This is my fourth year here at (regionals) and will be my first year at the Games. I am glad I came out.”
Event 7 Results
1. Cassidy Lance (2:02)
2. Jenn Jones (2:06)
3. Jessica Malone (2:06)
CrossFit Games Qualifiers
1. Jenn Jones (29)
2. Cassidy Lance (39)
3. Amanda Schwartz (41)