With three first-place finishes out of five events, Emily Bridgers is proving she will not be denied a podium spot in 2014.
Yesterday may have been the “Bridgers and Fortunato Show,” but today the spotlight was on Bridgers.
With three first-place finishes out of five events, Bridgers is proving she will not be denied a spot on the podium. She finished Event 4’s strict handstand push-up event in first place—20 seconds faster than the next female competitor and eight seconds faster than the first-place male.
Bridgers ended the day in first place overall knocking Talayna Fortunato down to an unfamiliar place in the South East: second.
On the men’s side, Noah Ohlsen moved up to the top of the Leaderboard with a comfortable 13-point lead. Ten points separate the second-place through fifth-place male athletes, so it is still anybody’s game for the podium.
The individual women began Day 2 with a challenging event consisting of strict handstand push-ups, heavy front squats and burpees. With a time cap of 20 minutes, weaknesses were revealed, but it was the heavy front squats that had some of the athletes digging in and fighting for every rep.
Kathleen Vinson was the only woman in the first heat to finish the event under the time cap.
"It feels good,” Vinson said. “I really wanted to finish it. I even rested for a while. It's just that handstand push-ups are a bitch!"
In Heat 2, Hilary Mauro inspired the crowd as she struggled on her front squats. At 4-foot-10 and 115 lb., the front squat weight was 10 lb. over her body weight. The crowd cheered her on as she chipped away one rep at a time.
In the final heat, Bridgers and Sarabeth Phillips were first off the handstand push-ups. Bridgers quickly pulled away from the pack as she flew through the movements, finishing with a time of 10:24.
With a first-place finish in three out of four events, Bridgers bumped Fortunato from the top spot on the Leaderboard.
"I feel good. I feel confident,” Bridgers said. “I knew that was going to be a good one for me so (I’m) just trying to stay focused on what's ahead. It feels good to come out with some first-place finishes. I've never done that until this year so it is definitely a nice change."
Before Event 5, Bridgers said she was not worried.
"I think the final workout will be really fun to watch, like really fast sprints," she said. "I mean legless will be awesome for the crowd especially, but I'm looking forward to see what I can do and what the other athletes around me can do, too."
"I feel good. I like where I'm at!” Bridgers added.
Hannah Richards appeared to come out of nowhere, finishing right behind Bridgers with a time of 10:37.
"(This is) my first regionals, but it's been a good regionals to come into because it's very gymnastics biased and that's my strength,” Richards said. “So I'm just playing to that. Having fun."
Another new face is Lauren Truszkowski, who has held her own so far against the top women of the South East. Truszkowski finished Event 6 in third place with a time of 12:23.
Staging the biggest comeback of her CrossFit career, Phillips showed the crowd once again she wants a spot on the podium. She finished Event 6 with a time of 12:31 for fourth place.
"This definitely solidifies all my hard work,” Phillips said. “This past year being so difficult for me makes it that much sweeter.”
Event 4 Results
1. Emily Bridgers (10:24)
2. Hannah Richards (10:37)
3. Lauren Truszkowski (12:23)
The legless rope climbs of Event 5 were triumphant for some and heart breaking for others. Many of the women struggled on the climb, coming within inches of touching the crossbar only to take the long slide down.
Best-dressed Bianca Blair did not disappoint as she entered the floor in a red and white polka-dotted tutu, but the rope climbs stopped her in her tracks. Sonya McMillan won the heat with a time of 7:11 and took fourth in the event.
"It felt honestly a little easier then practice just because our coach had us run with a med ball,” McMillan said after the event. “He just said pace your run. It's not about the run, it's about the legless rope climbs. So just pace your run, shake your arms out, and when you're ready to go, go. And that's exactly what I did."
But it was the final heat of the day that everyone was anticipating.
Lauren Brooks knew there was no room for error if she wanted to reclaim her spot in the top three on the Leaderboard. On the first rope climb, she jumped almost halfway up the rope before having to do her first pull. She continued to keep a strong lead on all of the other athletes through the first seven rounds.
"I stuck to my game plan and did what I wanted to do, and it worked,” Brooks said. "I knew that I needed that (event) so there was a little motivation behind that."
“Towards the end, I did hear that (Bridgers and Fortunato) were close, but I knew as long as I didn't miss any rope climbs I'd be OK,” she continued. “I stuck to my game plan and I was all right."
Brooks finished the event first in 5:34 and now sits in third place spot on the overall Leaderboard.
As Brooks was making her final sprint to the finish line, all eyes turned to Bridgers and Fortunato who were on their final rope climb. With the nickname “Spider Monkey,” Fortunato was favored to win, especially being six inches taller than Bridgers. Fortunato struggled to reach the crossbar, as Bridgers came off the rope sprinting for the finish in 5:37.
"On the 10th (round) I didn't want to get on the rope, but Talayna jumped right up so I knew I had to go,” Bridgers said. “My biceps still had a little bit left so the faster I got up the rope, the better. I just kept that in mind.”
"It was everything I could've asked for,” Bridgers added. “I tested it in the gym, and it was almost two minutes slower. Having Talayna and Lauren pushing me, and the turnout was amazing. I couldn't have asked for anything better."
Fortunato finished 18 seconds behind Bridgers to take third place on the event.
At the end of the day, it is Bridgers on top with Fortunato six points behind her.
"I like the position I'm sitting in, but I don't want to let anything slide by," Bridgers said.
Event 5 Results
1. Lauren Brooks (5:34)
2. Emily Bridgers (5:37)
3. Talayna Fortunato (5:54)
1. Emily Bridgers (12)
2. Talayna Fortunato (18)
3. Lauren Brooks (32)
4. Hannah Richards (36)
5. Lauren Truszkowski (52)
6. Sarabeth Phillips (53)
7. Taylar Stallings (63)
8. Shana Alverson (67)
9. Sonya McMillan (69)
10. Caroline Dardini (69)
Entering the South East Regional as one of the favorites, Daniel Petro knew he was going to have to fight hard today to get to the top of the Leaderboard. He entered Event 4 in 17th place overall.
”(Event 4) is going to be my worst workout for sure,” Petro said before the event. “So I’ve got to just survive it. Not so good at the strict handstand push-ups. I weigh a lot—220 lb.—so we'll see. I’ve just got to grind this one out and try to get to the next workout."
Petro finished well under the time cap with a time of 16:48, but with a highly competitive men’s field, it was only good enough for 34th place. His chances to podium appear slim.
Former South East Regional announcer, Dylan Malitsky, brought the crowd to its feet as he struggled through the last few reps of the handstand push-ups. He moved through the final front squats and burpees completing the event just seconds before time was called.
"I've been on the other side of things. I worked with the announcer, Larry, at last year’s South East Regional, and there were plenty of times where I got the crowd into it when that last person finished,” Malitsky said. “That's the most exciting moment. But to be on the flip side, it feels kind of weird to be honest. I'm so used to getting the crowd engaged, but instead, they were cheering for me, and it definitely 100 percent helped me get through that last rep. I don't think I would've been able to finish without their support."
Last year’s South East Regional champ, ZA Anderson, cheered from the stands as he watched his little brother, Jacob Anderson, give his best performance of the competition so far. He finished Event 4 in third place with a time of 10:44.
“I didn't get a good start yesterday so I'm excited to finish strong with that workout and come back tonight (for Event 5)," Anderson said.
His big brother, who withdrew from the Open after suffering an injury, said if he couldn’t be out there competing, cheering on his brother was the next best thing.
“He was fighting hard out there,” he said. “I am really excited to be here for him.”
"It's a bummer (he is not competing), but he really needed to rest and take the year off so I'm just trying to hold the Anderson name high while he's gone,” Anderson said of ZA.
As athletes entered for Event 4, the noise level grew as the crowd showed its appreciation for what was certain to be an exciting heat.
Noah Ohlsen and Guido Trinidad were the first to take the lead, but Julian Serna kept his eyes on the leaders pacing himself against their movements. As Ohlsen began to fade, Serna picked up his pace finishing with the best time for the men at 10:32. Trinidad finished just seconds behind him with 10:40 to take second place.
"I had to look over and make sure my pace was good enough to stay ahead,” Serna said. “Guido was really biting at my heels so I would just glance over every now and again to see how many reps he was behind me so I could keep two-thirds reps ahead of him."
"There's still a lot of workouts left so you can't come out with one workout and think that you won the whole thing,” Serna added. “I have to stay focused and just grind it out for that rest of the weekend and try to stay on top of the Leaderboard."
Trinidad said he was satisfied with how he did on the event.
"Julian and I were neck-and-neck. I failed my third handstand push-up, which is the only one I failed of the day, maybe pushed a little too soon, so he got me by a couple seconds," Trinidad said. "All in all, good workout for me. I'm happy."
After that exciting finish, another one occurred right afterward between Ohlsen and Irving Hernandez. With the crowd screaming and cheering, Hernandez was able to make fast work of his burpees to beat Ohlsen to the finish mat by only one second. Hernandez finished in 11:23.
Ohlsen said he was still pleased with his fifth-place performance.
“(I’m feeling a) little bit of pain—quads blowing up a little bit, but not too bad, honestly,” Ohlsen said. “I'm happy with that."
Event 4 Results
1. Julian Serna (10:32)
2. Guido Trinidad (10:40)
3. Jacob Anderson (10:44)
Blink and you missed it during the men’s Event 5, with most of the top-10 finishes going sub-four minutes.
Things got a little spicy when Quinn Otte took to the floor in jeans, taped to his shoes. Head judge, Chuck Carswell, made him remove them seconds before the heat was set to go for violating the rule that athletes must wear athletic apparel. Otte stripped down to his compression shorts to the catcalls of the crowd. It didn’t slow him down as he completed the event in 4:10.
“Hurry up so I can put my pants back on!" was the thought going through Otte’s head as he ran down the floor.
"I just wanted something on my legs to keep the rope from eating it up,” Otte explained. “One … judge came over, looked me over and said I was good to go. When I got out on the floor, Chuck came over and said it's got to be athletic attire, that I couldn't wear them. I had 30 seconds to change. Of course, I didn't have another pair of shorts in my back pocket so I just took them off."
Brandon Bergin put up the time to beat in the first heat with 3:49. He would end up taking third in the event. After a disappointing Event 4, Marquan Jones came back strong, taking second with a time of 3:45.
It was Elijah Muhammad who had the crowd going crazy as he climbed the rope using only 3 pulls per climb. He finished with the best time of the day, 3:33, and averaging 21.3 seconds per round.
"Just keep moving. It's nothing but a sprint and rope climb,” Muhammed said of his strategy. “Jump as high as I can, make sure I don't slow down on my sprints. The plan executed well, but I mean it's a simple couplet. So in my mind I was like, ‘It's simple, let's keep it simple.’"
Ohlsen’s fourth-place time of 3:50 allowed him to keep his first-place spot on the Leaderboard.
"I wanted to place top 10 in the first workout today and finished top five so that was awesome,” Ohlsen said. “I wanted top five for the second one, and I got fourth. I kind of have it scripted out, and it's going the way I want so far. So hopefully it stays that way."
Event 5 Results
1. Elijah Muhammad (3:33)
2. Marquan Jones (3:45)
3. Brandon Bergin (3:49)
1. Noah Ohlsen (28)
2. Travis Mayer (41)
3. Jeff Evans (45)
4. Julian Serna (51)
5. Aaron Hanna (51)
6. Guido Trinidad (54)
7. Ryan Sunshine (56)
8. Irving Hernandez (59)
9. Elijah Muhammad (60)
10. Marquan Jones (63)
View the South East Regional in Photos