Five weeks of worldwide competition has come to an end. The CrossFit Open was truly open thousands of people willing to test their fitness. Personal records were made, and athletes pushed themselves to extremes. Where else can the average person compete against world-class athletes?
Joshua DeLong of CrossFit Fort Walton Beach, who finished in 1,890th place in the South East, summed up his Open experience. “The Games workouts showed me I was more capable than I knew, and my mind was my only weakness. Once I let go, I was capable of far more than I ever thought,” he says. “I've set a few PRs in [the] Games and made new milestones that now require conquering.”
There is no rest for some of the South East’s athletes as their training is just gearing up in preparation for the Regional competition. There, only the top three men, women and teams will earn a spot to the Games in California.
After an old-fashioned horse race for the top spot on the South East men’s Leaderboard, it was a photo finish as Brandon Phillips of CrossFit Kennesaw took 1st place in the Open. Only one point separated Phillips from Chase Daniels of Hard Exercise Works who finished in 2nd. Phillips, a three-time Games veteran, is excited about heading to Regionals. “I train alone so being next to these top CrossFitters will only take the intensity higher and make it more exciting in West Palm Beach come April,” he says.
A.J. Moore of CrossFit Delray Beach finished in 4th place, and his fans are ready to watch him compete at Regionals. Many are familiar with his experience at last year’s Mid Atlantic Regional where he just missed out on a trip to the Games. Perhaps this will be his year to make it to California.
Jason Ingham of CrossFit Ragnarok, who won the South East Open last year, but finished in a disappointing 26th place at Regionals, says he is much better equipped this year and looks forward to seeing who makes it on the podium. He finished 5th in this year’s Open.
Other notables: Landon Brazell of CrossFit Embrace finished 13th after coming back from a serious head injury suffered during a local competition in August. Jared Davis of CrossFit South Side, the 1st-place finisher of last year’s Regional, ended up 26th in the Open. Kirk Gibson of World Camp CrossFit, the youngest individual competitor in the region at 19, finished 36th.
The top story coming from the South East women is the impressive performance of Emily Bridgers of CrossFit Decatur. This former gymnast made a name for herself after knocking out 534 reps on Open Workout 12.3, placing 2nd in the world. She continued her domination in the Open finishing 1st in the South East, with the next closest competitor 30 points behind. Bridgers ranks 4th in the world among some of the biggest names in CrossFit.
Talayna Fortunato of CrossFit Real Fitness also had an amazing Open, finishing in 2nd place despite nursing a sprained elbow, broken rib, contusion on her upper lateral thigh and vision problems due to an accident that occurred right before the Open. “It wasn’t fun to work through all of this to say the least, but the pain of quitting would have definitely been greater and longer lasting,” she says, adding she is now almost pain-free.
The top three women who made it to the Games last year will all be making a return trip to Regionals. Cheryl Nasso of CrossFit Fort Pierce finished in 3rd, Leah Polaski of CrossFit Atlanta in 13th and Shana Alverson of CrossFit East Decatur in 22nd.
Other women to note: Lindsay Bourdon of CrossFit Adrenaline finished in 4th and finds inspiration from her nephew who suffers from a rare genetic syndrome called MECP2 Duplication Syndrome. Jaime Gold of CrossFit Affliction finished 26th at last year’s Games after CrossFitting for less than year, and recently moved to the South East finishing 10th in the Open. Fain Davis of CrossFit Grit, a former University of Georgia basketball player who has been CrossFitting for just over a year, finished 21st in her first Open.
Notably missing from the top of the Leaderboard is CrossFit Hardcore’s Adriana Grassi-Mosley who was hoping to make a comeback in this year’s Open after taking time off to deal with some injuries. She re-injured her shoulder during Open Workout 12.3 and decided to take it easy for the remaining workouts. “I have now four weeks to catch up to my team, and yes, I am planning to go, I’m not pulling out,” she says.
Not to be outdone by their younger counterparts, the South East Masters had a strong showing in the Open with eight athletes advancing straight to the Games.
Ron Ortiz, 46, of Hard Exercise Works is making a return trip to California after finishing in 3rd place in his division at last year’s Games. His training partner, 26-year-old Chase Daniels, says he couldn’t imagine if Ortiz was his age, and he had to compete against him. “He is an animal,” Daniels says.
Second-place finisher in the Men’s 50-54 Division, Brian “Brig” Edwards will be one to watch this summer. This 50-year-old discovered CrossFit after suffering a major cycling accident in 2003. He trains out of his garage and says almost everything he has learned has been from online videos, although he gets tips from his wife and son who CrossFit at boxes.
Kelli Dean, who finished in 9th place in her division, still can’t believe she has made it to the Games. Dean, 50, started CrossFitting two years ago in order to lose extra weight. “I never would have done this without my husband who has encouraged and believed in me from the beginning,” she says.
It will be a clash of the titans to see which teams emerge victorious in their bid to the Games. CrossFit North Atlanta, who finished 1st in the Open, and CrossFit Atlanta, who finished 3rd, were stunned last year when they did not make it on the podium at Regionals.
No doubt these two powerhouses have been training hard to ensure that they do not get shut out again. They will have to face CrossFit Hardcore, who finished in second place in the Open, and had a strong showing in California last year by finishing in 10th place worldwide.
“It is always great to fight it out with CrossFit North Atlanta and Hardcore. They are like our closest friends and greatest enemies,” says Mike Giardina, owner of CrossFit Atlanta.
These teams will have some fierce competition in CrossFit Paragon, who tied with CrossFit Atlanta for 3rd and had a 6th-place finish at last year’s Regional. With some experience under its belt, this team may be ready to take it to the next level.