CrossFit Polaris has skipped the teething, crawling and tentative steps of a brand new affiliate, and sprinted on to snatches, muscle-ups and toes-to-bars. Four weeks into the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games Open, the six-month-old box sits in third overall in the Central East.
You could say that Columbus, Ohio, has gone through a CrossFit affiliate baby boom over the last few months, as it is now home to more than 20 affiliates. Although the boxes are new, many of their members are not.
If you scroll over CrossFit Polaris’ scores, you’ll see several veteran competitors including the seventh place Games finisher Marcus Hendren. After the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games, Hendren left his family’s dairy farm to train at Polaris.
Each week, his top scores have helped separate Polaris from the rest of the region.
However, it’s not a one-man show.
Hendren is joined by Central East Regional competitors Jessica Clay, Nikki Ralston, Joe Herren and Alex Whitsel, as well as rookies, Caitlin Renner, Landon Walker, Rebecca Hamilton, Ashley Smith and Allison Holtsberry.
Herren, Whitsel, Walker, Clay, Ralston and an undetermined third female competitor will represent CrossFit Polaris at the Ohio State Fairgrounds this May.
“Our approach to the Open is simple: Do the workouts as if we are all trying to qualify individually for Regionals,” team captain, Herren, explains.
It’s an approach that worked for the 2012 Games second-place finishers, SPC CrossFit
. The Open, after all, is composed of individual, not team, workouts.
To make sure each teammate puts in their best performance on the Open workouts, they get together to throw down on Saturday. The box’s energy helps, Herren says.
“We all get together on Saturday afternoons to throw down each Open (workout) together. With a large number of our community present, it makes for a pretty intense environment,” Herren says.
Focusing on individual game helps assure the team doesn’t have any weak links. Polaris aims for a team of generalists, not a team of dependent specialists.
Herren tailors the programming to each of the teammate’s needs. For instance, Walker may need to drill heavy weights like squats and cleans, while Whitsel is more gymnastically challenged, working muscle-ups and pull-ups on a regular basis.
The attention to detail is what attracted Walker, a 23-year-old CrossFit rookie, to Polaris in the first place. The coaches and athletes at Polaris are in it to win it, and it shows.
“I live about an hour away from CrossFit Polaris, but its well worth the drive,” Walker says. “I had dropped into a few CrossFit boxes, but once I found Polaris, I knew this would be it, it was like walking into a new family.”
While the side work is tailored to the teammate, the main programming has a few mainstays, Herren explains.
"I stick to the basics,” he says. “I'm a firm believer in when your legs go, so does the rest of your body. We want our lower body to be ready for the volume and intensity, and for that, deadlifts and squats are our staples."
To make sure his athletes can keep going like the Energizer Bunny, he makes them do strength work when fatigued.
“You're only as strong as you are when you're tired. And we have to be ready for that," Herren says.
Lifting after a met-con has shown up in the Games, like the max overhead that immediately followed Pyramid Double Helen in 2010.
Whitsel, a two-time Games competitor with Team Rouge Gahanna, has moved to Polaris and thinks their approach is just right.
“Just from seeing what caliber athletes are at the Games and what it takes to get there, I feel that we have an extremely good chance at making it this year,” Whitsel says.
So far, their dreams don’t seem far from reality. Sitting in third overall, CrossFit Polaris has accumulated 18 points and remains closely behind CrossFit Mayhem and CrossFit Maximus.
Yet, as every seasoned CrossFit competitor knows, a great start doesn’t always lead to a great finish. Many athletes and teams that excel in the Open don’t do well with the heavier weights and more complicated movements at Regionals.
Herren isn’t worried, though. He’s confident in his team’s abilities, and he thinks they have a good shot at the podium.
“A few weeks before the Open, Alex shot me a text stating that if I elected to go team this year, he would, as well,” Herren says. “With the level of talent some of our new members brought to the table, we have a great opportunity to compete for a team spot at the Central East Regional.”
No region in CrossFit is a given — just ask Michelle Kinney or Nick Urankar, but Polaris likes the challenge.
“We work best under pressure,” Herren says. “Hopefully, we'll stay injury free and continue improving. We've got a long way to go but it’s going to be a fun summer regardless of what happens.”