Two points. Two points is all that separated the second and fourth place women at the start of Day 3 in the South West Region. Three points was all that separated those same spots for the men.
"I don’t care who you are, it’s not gonna last forever," said Chris Spealler, who was in fourth place entering Day 3.
Forever seems like a pretty good way to describe Spealler's legacy. He's competed in every CrossFit Games since its inception in 2007, and was in prime position to make it for the seventh time.
But to do so, Spealler needed a strong push on the final day.
As with the events that preceded it, Event 6 was not without its own challenges. Handstand push-ups and toes-to-bar are a test of speed and endurance, and the fat axle barbell is a different kind of beast.
To put it simply, Event 6 is heavy, and it will wear you raw.
The programming for Event 6 is the tale of two halves. The first half caters to the smaller, more agile athlete, while the second half allows stronger athletes to make a mark.
This proved to be the case in the first heat. The petite Jessica Nathe and Hillari Eaton cruised through the handstand push-ups and toes-to-bars. However, both athletes struggled with their grip when they reached the axle. In contrast, the stronger Jennifer Schaeffer and Alisha Gregerson had little problem with the axle, using their strength to catch up to Nathe and Eaton.
"I looked at the clock when I got off the handstands, and I thought, ‘Oh, please God, let there be a miracle,’" said Gregerson, who finished the heat tied with Eaton and Schaeffer with a score of 15:02. "I’m so sore from these last two days, but I just knew I had to catch them on the lunges."
In Heat 2, Johanne Snavely became the first woman to finish in under 15-minute mark, finishing her lunges with 22 seconds to spare.
“You just can't stop,” Snavely said. "I train with someone who is always ahead of me, but I know slow and steady wins the race."
Just as it had in the first two days, the final heat delivered an exciting race. After rising to the challenge of dumbbell snatches and deadlifts to crack into the top three, Lindsey Cascarina was stuck at the handstand push-ups for several minutes.
“I knew that I was just waiting to get past them, and I would do really well on the rest of it, but handstand push-ups are a big downfall,” Cascarina said. “One of those skills I really haven’t mastered yet. I’ve gotten a lot better at them, but they’re obviously still not up to par."
One by one, the athletes passed her by as she struggled with the movement. It wasn't until there was less than a minute remaining before Cascarina finally touched axle bar.
Emmalee Moore’s strength was key on the axle, but the CrossFit Verve athlete knew she had to make it there first.
"I knew I would be strong on the shoulder-to-overhead, so to get there I had to knock out a massive set of toes-to-bar,” said Moore, who took Event 6 in 10:21. “I wanted 15 to 20 and ended up doing 26 unbroken. I'm super happy with that."
Right behind Moore was Natalie McLain and Becky Conzelman. Knowing full well she had to get ahead of Conzelman, McLain kept moving on the last 45 feet of lunges to tie her in the overall standings.
"I’m happy with it," said McLain of her performance. "I kind of have high expectations for myself, all the time, so I was hoping to win it. I felt really good in practice, but with all the other (events), my body has taken a beating.”
McLain and Conzelman enter the final event tied with 33 points each. Moore sits in fourth-place overall with 41 points, while Cascarina fell from second to fifth with 55 points.
1. Emmalee Moore (10:21)
2. Natalie McLain (10:43)
3. Becky Conzelman (11:15)
1. Tiffany Hendrickson (15)
2. Natalie McLain (33)
3. Becky Conzelman (33)
Don't tell Jason Fine he can’t hang with the boys. Competing against some who are 20 years his junior, the 43-year-old put on a display in the first heat. Advancing to the toes-to-bar first and later finishing his shoulder-to-overheads in under 4 minutes, Fine was the only athlete in his heat to finish the event.
“At 43 years old, I'm a Masters athlete," said Fine with a laugh. "I'm going to the Games as eighth in the world. I am here hanging with the young guys for the experience. It has been great!”
Despite being a newcomer to CrossFit, Brennan Fjord has competed well at the Regional. He passed Leo Jenkins in the waning moments of Heat 3, taking a quick moment to glance at his competition before lunging over the finish line.
“I have only been doing CrossFit for four months,” Fjord said. “I came in free and just wanted to have fun and do as well as possible. It has been a blast.”
In the final heat, Chris Spealler won the event by more than 90 seconds to the second-place Jacob Hutton.
Spealler churned out 30 unbroken on the toes-to-bar to give himself a healthy lead. Using a jerking motion, Spealler put up 10 shoulder-to-overheads before the next competitor, Zach Forrest, got to the axle, and hit lunges by the 6:30 mark. Matt Chan was still on his toes-to-bar when Spealler began the lunges.
Hutton said he went into the event with a plan.
“I wanted to pace myself on the handstand push-ups, so I wasn't burned out for the shoulder-to-overhead — I felt good " said Hutton of his strategy. "When the person next to me dropped the bar on the lunges, I went for it."
After the event, the Leaderboard shifted. Forrest moved from second to fourth and Speal snuck into the top three. Hathcock sits in second place with 31 points and Chan holds strong to first place.
"I needed that," Spealler said. "Now I'm going to erase it from my memory and get ready for the next one."
1. Chris Spealler (8:41)
2. Jacob Hutton (10:20)
3. Matt Hathcock (10:45)
1. Matt Chan (26)
2. Matt Hathcock (31)
3. Chris Spealler (32)
Unlike the previous events, Event 6 required teammates to work in tandem, which meant there was little opportunity for rest. And it came with a major impediment: Athletes had to wait for their teammates to complete a movement before they could move ahead.
Winning has been the plan all along for Hack's Pack UTE, and, like the events prior, win is exactly what they did.
After setting back-to-back world records on Day 2, many wondered if the hometown team would challenge the Event 6 record set by CrossFit New England's CFNE Team A. The workout was even to begin as the teams worked their way through the opening set of double-unders, but little by little, Hack's Pack picked up steam.
Though they did not set an event record, there was clearly no stopping Hack's Pack, who look to make it seven-for-seven in the final event of the day.
“I’m glad we won it,” said Mike Cazayoux. "Obviously we wanted to keep breaking (event) records, but I feel like that was the hardest one to beat set by CrossFit New England. So we knew it would be really difficult to get, but feeling pretty good about winning another event. That’s all we can really try for right now.”
Entering the day tied with Ute All-Stars with 28 points, Front Range CrossFit also found separation, but they needed help to get it. Finishing second in the heat, Front Range was pushed to the finish by the strong efforts of the rest of the field.
Eric Clancy "didn't want to clean that bar," and so he gritted his teeth and strong-armed the last leg of lunges to help CrossFit Verve finish third with a time of 10:55.
CrossFit Verve's push, coupled with Ute All-Stars' six-place performance, gave Front Range CrossFit a four-point cushion as they head into the final event of the day.
"We knew Ute’s a good team, and we knew their second team was gonna be good," said Front Range’s Caleb Sommer, who seems to be pleased to now have a cushion in the standings. "We weren’t expecting them to be doing this well, but it’s good to have the motivation of that team sitting in second."
1. Hack's Pack UTE (9:12)
2. Front Range CrossFit (10:28)
3. CrossFit Verge (10:55)
1. Hack's Pack UTE (6)
2. Front Range CrossFit (25)
3. Ute All-Stars (29)