CrossFit Games competitors are determined in the South East.
The Rogue Gear Services crew for the Dirty South made the transition between Event 6 and 7 smooth and seamless. They cleared the floor immediately after the last heat of the Individual Men’s competition, making equipment changes for the seventh and final event of the weekend.
There was no bad seat in the house as spectators gathered in the Palm Beach County Convention Center, ready to cheer on their favorite athlete.
Like watching hungry tigers pace back in forth in their cages, the top 12 men in the South East waited for their names to be announced for Event 7, vying for that podium spot. The intensity of the athletes was evident. The mood was serious and intense.
It was still anyone’s game.
During the final heat, Noah Ohlsen came off the rope climbs first, going into a full sprint like he was shot out of a cannon as he headed toward the cleans. Ohlsen fell to the ground on his second clean as Jeff Evans and Elijah Muhammad followed right on his heels.
Daniel Petro quickly caught up, and it was soon a race between Petro and Muhammad for the best time of the day. Muhammad beat Petro in the final seconds with the best time at 4:23.
"Rope climbs are something I worked on a lot (while) training with Mr. (Rich) Froning, who couldn't rope climb in 2011, so it was something we did a lot of,” Muhammad says. “Since I was a basketball player, jumping is in my blood. Once I get one good jump and one good pull, I'm there every time. That was a game changer right there."
"(On) the squat cleans, I was able to move fast,” Muhammad adds. “I train with guys that lift heavy like Derek Robinson and other guys that just always have heavy workouts, so the squat cleans weren't bad ..."
Muhammad finished Regionals in fifth overall.
Petro came out of the Open in fourth place and finishes Regionals in third overall, earning a trip to the Games.
"This is amazing. I knew coming in that if I got the right workouts, I had a shot,” he says. “When I saw the final workout, I knew it was going to be my best one. I knew it was the only one that I might have a chance to actually win. It's basically tailor-made for me. Perfect."
"It's consistency with me. I'm never going to win all of them. I might not ever win any events. But it's consistency that was the goal, and it paid off,” he says.
As Petro prepares himself for the Games, he says he is going to hammer his weaknesses.
"I think the biggest thing is being honest with yourself,” Petro says. “Knowing what your weaknesses are and being OK with the pack getting ahead a little bit and trusting your strengths. There's no easy routes to California. There's only extremely hard routes.”
Travis Mayer entered Event 7 in first place overall. After a solid performance on Event 7, Mayer felt good about his performance and his second-place finish overall. He was in the athlete area hitting refresh on the Leaderboard on his phone when he found out he would be making a trip to California this summer.
"I wanted to avoid no reps, which didn't happen, but it all worked out anyway," Mayer says.
ZA Anderson finished the day with the top spot on the podium.
"This is surreal. I have no real words to describe this other than I feel blessed," he says. "My father was the 2011 Masters champion, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps."
Anderson’s consistency throughout the competition paid off as he now prepares for his first trip to the Games.
1. Elijah Muhammad (4:23)
2. Daniel Petro (4:29)
3. Rey Fernandez (4:32)
1. ZA Anderson (61)
2. Travis Mayer (62)
3. Daniel Petro (70)
The best women did not disappoint the crowds as the final heat came down to the wire.
"Did I win that heat?" Lauren Brooks said after crushing Event 7 with a time of 4:51.
Brooks tweaked her back on Event 6 but came out firing in the final women's heat of the day.
"I practiced that workout earlier last week and was upset because I struggled with the rope and finished in seven something," Brooks says.
Her practice paid off, and she ends Regionals in sixth place overall.
Jaime Gold fought hard to hold on to a third-place spot despite suffering an injury to her Achilles tendon on Day 2. But Emily Friedman fought even harder, moving into the coveted third place, guaranteeing her a first trip to the Games.
“I’m ecstatic,” Friedman said when she heard the news she was on her way to California.
“Let me just say, here in the South East, everyone has been so supportive. Lauren Brooks has been awesome,” Friedman says. “Jaime Gold, I mean, we’ve been like companions down here. Literally in the middle of the workouts, I’ll hear Lauren [Brooks] say ‘Come on Em!,’ and it’s so cool to be welcomed like that down here.”
After recently opening up her own gym, The Training Room, just weeks before Regionals, Friedman couldn’t be happier with her finish.
“Over the past few weeks, I’ve been sleeping very little, and you know, you’re trying to build something, training others, so some days your workouts come last,” she says.
Anna Tunnicliffe is also on her way to her first CrossFit Games, ending the weekend with an impressive second-place finish. Tunnicliffe, an Olympic gold-medalist in sailing, was asked how competing at Regionals compared to competing at the Olympic Trials.
“I think the only difference was that I had a lot more confidence in my sailing ability going into the Olympic Trials. Here, I didn’t really know. I knew I would do well, but how well was the question,” she says.
Tunnicliffe says she had a plan for tackling Event 7.
"We had a game plan going into that last [event], and I kind of just tried to stick to it as much as I could,” she says. “Around round three, I was like second or something, and I knew I was battling with Talayna (Fortunato), so I just pushed it to the end. I knew if I finished top five, it'd be OK so that's what we pushed for. We did it."
Tunnicliffe also has the European Championship in sailing coming up at the end of June.
"I have so much work between now and (the Games). It's unreal!” she says. “I'm just pumped to be going, and hopefully I can represent our region to the best of my abilities."
The third fittest woman in the world, Fortunato, finished Event 7 with a time of 5:36, holding onto a commanding first-place position and sending her on a second trip to the Games.
“This time it feels like a step in the process to get to the ultimate goal,” she says. “Every year you doubt yourself coming into it. To do just as well, it makes me feel good.”
“There were some really good girls out there that fought hard,” Fortunato says. “I think in our region, we have people that seem to have their goals and (the Leaderboard) flip-flopped a lot. You never knew who was going to be (on the top of the Leaderboard).”
1. Lauren Brooks (4:51)
2. Shelly Sourdis (4:58)
3. Stephanie McCarthy (5:01)
1. Talayna Fortunato (21)
2. Anna Tunnicliffe (47)
3. Emily Friedman (53)
Teams ended their last day of Regionals with all six team members grinding it out on Event 7. Only six teams managed to make it through the rope climbs, sprints and heavy cleans before the 20-minute time cap expired.
CrossFit Atlanta Formulx dominated the weekend and finished Event 7 with the best time in the South East of 15:53.
"That was a hell of a way to finish," says Mike Giardina of CrossFit Atlanta Formulx.
Giardina was in charge of the rounds of four on the 225-lb. squat cleans.
"I wanted to finish strong because the axle bar from the previous workout blew me up, and it took me 30 minutes to feel human again,” he says.
"Last year, we were one spot from making it to the final heat at the Games, so obviously the goal is to be in that heat," Giardina says.
The team will take a couple days off before returning to "hitting it hard" in preparation for their return trip to the Games.
“I feel excellent,” team member Leah Polaski says. “We were never really worried about anything coming into this weekend. We train enough together, (teammates) Mike G (Giardina) and Ken (Gall) program for us. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and we planned our strategy on that.”
Finishing in second place overall, CrossFit Adrenaline will also be heading back to California. The team was asked how they felt about a return trip to the Games.
"Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!" teammate Austin Medford says.
"That's how we feel!” team member Lindsay Bourdon adds.
"The goal was to come back to Regionals, do our best and try to make it top three back to California,” Bourdon says. “I guess it was the goal all year. We did it, and we're very excited."
As Bourdon sprinted to the finish line, she said she had no clue what their time was. She just knew she had better sprint and get there so that the time would stop.
“We've been getting in trouble lately for not sprinting to the finish. I didn't want to disappoint our coach, T.J. Menerey,” she says.
Menerey is also Bourdon’s fianceé.
The team is looking forward to improving upon their 22nd-place finish last year at the Games.
"We actually know what kind of competition to expect out there now that we've had experience with it for one year. We're real excited to get back, train, and get ready for it and improve on the 22nd spot,” Bourdon says.
"Just one step at a time for this team,” she says. “You've got to get to one level, perform, get your job done and then think about the next level. Take a week off, get everyone good and in good spirits, and move on from there."
Newcomers CrossFit RX were thrilled upon realizing their spot to the Games was secured by finishing third in the South East.
“I was very nervous this morning, almost to the point of puking, but after I hit that last set of cleans … It’s just an unbelievable feeling,” Allison Brager says.
“I feel excited,” team member Amber Goppert says. “I hear people say this team deserves to go, but I feel that we earned it so it means even more. I feel like everyone on our team shows up every day, ready.”
“I couldn’t be any more excited with this group of guys,” teammate Eric Pyne says. “Their passion, they train so hard. (They) dedicated two or three hours a day in the gym, building relationships and this moment right now just makes it that much more special. It’s awesome!”
1. CrossFit Atlanta Formulx (15:53)
2. CrossFit Adrenaline (16:37)
3. CrossFit Unmatched (18:29)
1. CrossFit Atlanta Formulx (15)
2. CrossFit Adrenaline (21)
3. CrossFit RX (34)