May 30, 2017
The Pacific Regional is in the Books
By Tommy Marquez
Tommy's takeaways from the Pacific Regional.
Tommy's takeaways from the Pacific Regional.

If you’re a die-hard fan of CrossFit, the Pacific Regional is always a treat. For those of us in the States, the Pacific starts Thursday afternoon and ushers in what’s basically round-the-clock action until Sunday.

For me, that means I’m at the office early covering the morning team heats for other Regionals, and I’m sleep deprived because I can’t bring myself to not watch the Pacific, even as it stretches late into the night. 

There was a lot to digest from this year’s Pacific Regional, so here are three big takeaways.  

KIWIS DO THEIR HOMEWORK

As the California Regional put the finishing touches on Day 2 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, teams down in the Pacific were already finishing up their final day. Even before the announcers got on the loudspeakers to reveal the five qualifiers to the crowd, one thing was clear: Functional Strength did its homework and shored up its holes from 2016.

Last year was a year of what ifs for the team from Auckland, New Zealand, after it saw the top-five spot and fitness vacation to California dissolve on the final day. A 13th- and an eighth-place finish put the team in too big a hole to overcome, despite a second-place finish in the finale. 

In the end, just 6 points separated Functional Strength’s seventh-place standing from fifth-placed CrossFit Loaded.  

Each day of the 2016 Regional, Functional Strength had a finish outside of the top 10 that it could point to as its undoing. Each of those finishes came by narrow margins—one more made lift in Event 2 or 15 seconds faster in Event 7, and it would have been on the podium.

But if execution under pressure was the team’s downfall in 2016, it became its hallmark in 2017. For the first two days of competition, the team outperformed all other teams that had taken the floor so far—Affiliate Cup champ CrossFit Mayhem included. Three straight event wins to start sent a clear message that this was a much-improved Functional Strength.  

The team entered the final day with a decent lead and a target on its back. Two top-three finishes closed out the weekend, and the Kiwis closed the book on a Regional performance that will have Games analysts talking in the months leading up to the Games.

PARITY COMES FROM A LAND DOWN UNDER

The individual competition in the Pacific provided some exciting races between athletes fighting for the bubble and a trio of big names fighting for the top spot. 

For the past seven years, Rob Forte has been a constant in Australia. He’s won the Regional three of the last four years, and has established himself as the man to beat in the Pacific. So it made sense when the man dubbed “Captain Consistency,” started the weekend off with a win in Event 1. It was an event record at the time, and looked to be the start of another dominant weekend for Forte.

Someone forgot to tell James Newbury and Ricky Garard, though.  

Newbury, a breakout athlete from the Pacific in 2016, took control of first place to start Day 2 and never looked back. Newbury won both events on Day 2, and never finished lower than fourth the rest of the way.

After a 16th-place finish in Event 1, Garard was on a warpath to climb the Leaderboard and avenge the heartbreak of finishing sixth last year at Regionals, missing the Games by just 2 points. Halfway through the competition, Garard sat on the bubble but would shut the door on any possibilities of a 2016 repeat by rattling off three straight second-place finishes. He would also overtake Forte for second place overall in the process.

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While three familiar names battled for the top spot on the women’s side, four potential individual rookies had a brawl for the fifth-place spot.

Going into the finale, Games champion in the Masters Women 40-44 Division Helen Harding sat in fifth place. Just 2 points back from Harding sat Stephanie Ortiz in seventh, and Courtney Haley in sixth. Haley had the tiebreaker advantage over Ortiz thanks to her third place in Event 4. Four points back from them was five-time Regional competitor Jessica Coughlan.  

In the finale, Coughlan and Ortiz separated themselves early, gaining a lead over Haley and Harding off the bike. Harding struggled and immediately saw her shot at holding onto the top five fade. Coughlan was the first off the burpee box jumps, using a fast-charging Kara Webb as her rabbit. Ortiz was a few seconds behind..  

Coughlan would hold on to finish second behind Webb’s then event record, and the pressure was on Ortiz to finish her final rep and beat both Tia-Clair Toomey’s and Gemma Root’s time from a previous heat. Toomey would edge out Ortiz by eight-tenths of a second, and it would be enough to finally send Coughlan to the Games.  

BOON IS A BOSS

Six months ago, the idea of competing at the 2017 Reebok CrossFit Games may have seemed like a fairytale for Alethea Boon. Her 2016 season came to an abrupt stop during the 100% event at the Games when she ruptured her Achilles tendon.

It was an agonizing turn of events for a competitor who exuded nothing but positivity and class during her time at the Games. The recovery time alone to get back to normal movement can take six months, and that’s not counting the training time and fitness lost from time spent immobilized in a boot and not conducting business as usual in the gym.

Last November, Boon’s recovery and rehabilitation process was in full swing, but she was still walking under the pressure of just 40 percent of her body weight. In three months, the 2017 Open was underway, and there was a distinct possibility that Boone’s injury would impede upon another season.  

In 17.1, the very movement that ended Boon’s 2016 season—box jump overs—would be weaved into the framework of her very first workout of the 2017 season. She finished the workout 10th in Australia. Boon went on to finish the Open 11th in Australia, earning herself a return trip to the Pacific Regional.

She kicked off the 2017 Regional weekend with a fourth-place finish in Event 1. From there she would rip off four straight top-three finishes including back-to-back wins in Events 4 and 5. With one event left, Boon was in a tie for points for first place with Toomey. Her trip to the Games was a lock, and she cruised to an 18th-place finish in Event 7, earning third place overall and a return trip to the Games.