"It was awesome! We had 65 athletes and about another 60 fans."
For the head of University of Nevada CrossFit, Jim Fitzsimmons, the first Open workout was a hit, and put him ahead of his box's goals for the season.
“It was awesome!" Fitzsimmons says. "We had 65 athletes and about another 60 fans. We ran heats of 10."
Last year, Fitzsimmons had 64 athletes in total register for the Open, and he hoped to beat that number. Counting both participants at the Throw Down — Fitzsimmon's name for his gym's weekly Open workout group — as well as his athletes he knows who are doing the Open on their own, he has.
"We had a few go earlier in the day and a few will be going today," he says. "The time (of the Throw Down) was a bit late. We didn't start until 8 p.m. and a few didn't want to go (that) late at night."
Fitzsimmons says the last time he counted, there were 66 people registered, but more have done so since then, especially after seeing the action at the Throw Down.
"A few may try to get in before the deadline,” he says. "They came in on Friday and got so excited that they wanted to register and give it a shot."
With more athletes each year, there are more spectators and Fitzsimmons has had to up his game when it comes to organizing the event.
"We assign a coordination team of students who break the athlete list down into heats," Fitzsimmons says. "We have a check-in station set up an hour before hand where the athletes sign in and get their heat assignment. We hold a judge’s orientation and an athlete orientation. All the equipment in the competition area and warm-up area is set up beforehand and the heats are called into the warm-up area in order.”
"Last year, we realized that things were getting big and we needed to treat it more like an event," he adds. "We had to control the spectators, provide seating, etc. So last year was a test run and we refined the process for this year. We break it down in the basics. You have to manage your people, time and equipment. If you get those three things right, the rest is easy."
Fitzsimmons also says he was able to be inclusive, ensuring it wasn't just the top athletes participating.
"We have a few people who have been doing CrossFit for about a year (where) this is their first competition," he says. "We were able to get a number of people who are more than capable physically but just kept saying, ‘I don't think I can compete.’”
“Friday night was an eye opener for them when they discovered that they could in fact do well. I would say in total, 20 people are new to competing.”
"(There were) miles of smiles at the end of the night. (And) yeah, it does something to fundamentally alter how they feel about themselves and their ability,” he says. “In like lambs and out like lions. In that 17 minutes, something just gels in their heads and they become different (people), never the same again."
In his Open-based workouts leading up to the season, Fitzsimmons has been stressing skill, and he says the work paid off.
"Rebeca Marchand and Nora Constantino did really well,” he notes. “And several other of the males all did really well. Especially proud of Rebeca. As a whole, the performances were much better than last year."
Of course, Fitzsimmons did admit it's not surprising that focusing on skill made such a difference.
“As a group of coaches, we are learning, and even after the first workout, we recognized that we are going to do some things differently next year for preparation,” he says. “But pushing the more complex movements and Olympic lifts has been important."