May 30, 2022
2022 CrossFit Semifinals Week 2 Highlights
By Kelley Laxton with Chad Schroeder and Georgia Bayliss-Brown
Check out the best moments from the weekend and find out who will appear in Madison come August.
Check out the best moments from the weekend and find out who will appear in Madison come August.

Week 2 of the 2022 CrossFit Semifinals kicked off in Knoxville, Tennessee, with the Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge (MACC), and at Stellenbosch University in Stellenbosch, South Africa, with the Fittest in Cape Town. 

Another set of athletes began their quest for a ticket to the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games on Friday, and another 18 athletes have now been added to the roster. Check out the best moments from the weekend and find out who will appear in Madison come August. 

Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge

Day 1

The sun had just begun to shine through the clouds on a rainy morning in Knoxville, Tennessee, as the athletes prepared to give the first two events of the Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge their all. With barbells neatly spread out on platforms across the arena, Corbyn Yhap from 12 Labours CrossFit sang the national anthem to kick off the event.

Event 1 was a lifting event for both teams and individuals, teams snatching and individuals completing Barbell Complex. 

Mayhem Independence — one of three teams from CrossFit Mayhem to compete at the Semifinal level — took the floor in the second heat on Friday, looking to join the affiliate’s two other teams at the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games. First to lift were the men: Luke Parker and Angelo DiCicco. After the pair sailed through the entire ladder together, Parker was chosen to lift the bonus 11th bar, snatching a 290-lb bar and tying Shoofly Storm Squadron as the women took the floor. Sasha Nievas failed her first lift at 135 lb, some live competition nerves creeping up for the former Junior Olympic weightlifter. But she made an incredible comeback, getting to the 11th bonus bar and snatching 200 lb. Team CrossFit Mayhem Independence not only took first in the event but also tied CrossFit Mayhem Freedom’s score of 935 from the previous week. 

Luke Parker during Event 1

Luke Parker during Event 1 | Photo by flsportsguy photography 

When Niki Brazier asked the team about the pressure of Froning watching in the crowd, Alexis Johnson said, “We’re all here because we respond to pressure.”

Barbell Complex, as we saw last week, was all about strategy. Heading into the first individual workout, commentator Tanya Wagner said athletes should, “Begin with the end in mind.” Athletes had to choose their opening weights and jumps wisely. 

Only four 2021 Games individual women were on the roster at the Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge: Danielle Brandon, Brooke Wells, Sydney Michalyshen, and Baylee Rayl. Straight out of the gate, other athletes began to claim spots at the top of the leaderboard. Two-time Regional athlete Callerina Key was one. She set the Event 1 score to beat in Heat 1 at 235 lb and held on tight to her lead, lifting the heaviest weight out of the entire women’s field. 

The MACC had the strongest men’s field based on worldwide finishes at the Individual Quarterfinal. The top spots on the leaderboard shifted throughout the first event, not allowing a single athlete to feel the glory of first for too long. 

In Event 2, all eyes were on Noah Ohlsen, who tried to climb back up the leaderboard after failing his second two lifts in Barbell Complex and finishing in 19th place in the event. He stepped on the gas at the start of Event 2, securing a lead over his competitors. But as his tank began to empty, Saxon Panchik and Dallin Pepper closed the gap. Panchik crossed the finish line first, followed by Pepper in second and Ohlsen in third. 

Dallin Pepper during Event 2 | Photo by flsportsguy photography 

Dallin Pepper during Event 2 | Photo by flsportsguy photography 

Day 2

Saturday was “moving day,” signifying significant shifts in the leaderboard. It was anyone's game. 

CrossFit Mayhem Independence followed the path of its sister team, Mayhem Freedom, winning both events of the day and bringing its record to three wins in four events. The team had the crowd in suspense during Event 4, as Nievas, the last woman to perform the final stretch of handstand walks, came within an inch of completing the workout that no other team had finished. Mayhem Independence won the event at the cap, as the team completed the work but failed to cross the finish line within the 15-minute time frame. 

The individual athletes showed up to win, but that didn’t stop them from keeping the true spirit of CrossFit in Event 3. In all heats but one, one athlete remained on the floor struggling to climb the rope without their legs, and athletes who had already crossed the finish line walked over to cheer them on and show their support. 

Heading into Event 3, Wells, Michalyshen, and Shelby Neal were all tied for first. But Neal and Wells struggled with the legless rope climbs, finishing 30th and 24th, respectively. Both athletes dropped out of the top five heading into the final event of the day, with Michalyshen surpassing her competitors to take the event win at 3:43.60. 

Sydney Michalyshen running to the finish line during Event 3

Sydney Michalyshen running to the finish line during Event 3 | Photo by flsportsguy photography

No athlete in the women’s division could overcome the magnitude of Event 4. Brandon came closest, nearly completing the last set of sandbag cleans for a score of CAP + 11, her first event win of the weekend. 

As the first heat of the men’s field took the floor, the crowd was just getting settled, ready to watch fan favorites in the latter heats. But out of the blue, a competitor with bright blue shorts shocked the stands. Twenty-one-year-old William Leahy IV set a new worldwide record in Event 3, finishing in a time of 2:33.30. No man in the following heats could beat his time. 

After watching the women complete Event 4, the MACC Mile, the pressure was on for one athlete to finish before the 25-minute time cap. Heats 2 and 3 were unable to beat the clock, but when Saxon Panchik took the floor, he was determined to overcome the challenge set forth by the programmers. Crossing the finish line in 24:50.46, Panchik became the first and only individual athlete to finish under the time cap. He sat comfortably in first by 20 points heading into the final day of competition. 

Saxon Panchik during Event 4

Saxon Panchik during Event 4 | Photo by flsportsguy photography 

Day 3

It was an emotional end to Day 3, keeping spectators at the edge of their seats as the leaderboard settled. 

After the close of Event 5, coaches and athletes began to do their calculations. Where would they need to land in the final event to make the top five and secure a ticket to the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games? 

For the women, Wells risked dropping out of the top five if she fell too low in the final event, and Rebecca Fuselier would need to beat Neal to stay in her fifth-place position, the pair separated by a single point heading into the event. Kelly Clark was also lurking in seventh place, just 5 points out of fifth. Out of the gate, Brandon and Fuselier were neck-and-neck, with Kelly Clark just behind. Brandon cleared the finish line first, but it was a lunge-off between Clark and Fuselier to grab second. When Fuselier broke, Clark capitalized on the moment, completing her lunges, jumping over her bar, and diving to the finish mat just seconds ahead of Fuselier. The close finish cast an air of speculation over the crowd: Who would grab that last spot to the Games — Clark or Fuselier? Fighting to get through the event was Wells, who feared she had lost her top-five spot after finishing near the end of her heat. 

Rebecca Fuselier during Event 6

Rebecca Fuselier during Event 6 | Photo by flsportsguy photography 

After the close of competition for the women, the announcers tallied up the scores and announced the top five women advancing to the finals. Brandon knew she would be secure in first, and the crowd went wild as her name echoed through the stands. But after the other podium finishers were revealed, Wells had yet to hear her name. When she was called fourth, tears began to run down her face. It was a close call, but she was going back to the Games for her eighth-straight time. The two athletes in contention for fifth were Clark and Fuselier. By just one point, the fifth and final Games spot was awarded to Fuselier, who also began to cry with joy upon hearing her name and learning she’d earned her individual CrossFit Games debut. Fuselier — who competed in the Girls 16-17 division at the 2016 and 2017 Games — was the sole female qualifier out of the MACC with no prior individual Games experience.

All eyes were on Spencer Panchik heading into the final heat of the men’s division. It was clear that his twin brother, Saxon, would return for his fifth Games appearance. But Spencer had never been to the CrossFit Games and could practically feel the invitation in his hands leading into the event as he sat in sixth place.  He has been close to qualifying multiple times for the Games, would this finally be his year?

The men came out hot, but Saxon pulled ahead, crossing the finish line at 4:12.37 and amping up the crowd for what would ensue. Ohlsen and Spencer were in a battle to the end, but Ohlsen lunged across the line just three seconds ahead of Spencer. That third-place finish secured Spencer the fifth and final spot on the overall leaderboard — and the twins’ first joint appearance at the CrossFit Games. Pepper also had an incredible showing after narrowly missing his first Games as an individual competitor last year. He will be appearing in Madison as a rookie in the individual division this August. 

Spencer Panchik awaiting his fate

Spencer Panchik moments after he was awarded the fifth Games-qualifying spot | Photo by Kieran Kesner

Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge Top Finishers

Team

1. CrossFit Mayhem Independence — 565 pts

2. CrossFit Shoofly Storm Squadron — 520 pts

3. Kamo Athletics CrossFit — 485 pts

4. Koda CrossFit United — 480 pts

5. CrossFit Kilo II — 455 pts

Women

1. Danielle Brandon — 532 pts

2. Sydney Michalyshen — 512 pts 

3. Baylee Rayl — 480 pts

4. Brooke Wells — 443 pts

5. Rebecca Fuselier — 442 pts 

Men

1. Saxon Panchik — 540 pts

2. Dallin Pepper — 520 pts

3. Cole Sager — 484 pts

4. Noah Ohlsen — 470 pts

5. Spencer Panchik — 436 pts

The athletes listed above will be advancing to the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games. 

Fittest in Cape Town

Day 1

The team favorite, CrossFit Commit Okavango, began the Fittest in Cape Town Semifinal with an Event 1 win, completing the workout in 18:46 — over a minute ahead of second-place finisher CrossFit Firebolt. Okavango team members Mariska Smit and Johannes Jacobus Brits come from the 2021 Fittest in Cape Town championship team Eikestad Mighty Oaks.

On the women’s side, five-time Regional athlete and former Games team member Mary Jamieson, 39, took the lead straight out of the gate, finishing Event 1 in 17:28. But, it was 2019 CrossFit Games athlete Michelle Merand who came out on top in Event 2, which shot her to the top of the leaderboard at the close of Day 1. 

Event 1 on the men’s side was a tight race between ex-professional rugby player Kealan Henry, 2021 Semifinal athlete Ruan Potgieter, and three-time Games athlete Jason Smith. Henry and Smith dove into the water for their final round at the same time, but it was ultimately Potgieter who pulled out in front, finishing first in 16:50, with Smith and Henry finishing in second and third, respectively. In Event 2, 32-year-old Robert Heuer, who made his first appearance at Quarterfinals before advancing to Semifinals last year, took home the win just two seconds ahead of the second- and third-place finishers. 

Kealan Henry during Event 1

Kealan Henry during Event 1 | Photo by @roarkebouffe

Day 2

Team CrossFit Tijger Valley Unit and CrossFit Commit Okavango started Day 2 strong, taking first and second place in Event 3 and moving into those spots on the overall leaderboard. Team Snatch Ladder was the final event of the day for the teams, and only two men and four women cleared the ladder. Jacobus Brits from CrossFit Commit Okavango was one of two men to progress to the 11th platform, lifting a massive 132 kg (291 lb) with the final barbell. Tijger Valley’s Celestie du Toit hit an 84-kg (185-lb) snatch, battling the weight from the bottom of the squat but ultimately standing the bar up and leading the female team athletes for the heaviest snatch from the 2014 CrossFit Games individual. CrossFit Commit Okavango finished out the day in first place, just five points ahead of Tijger Valley in second. 

The women started Day 2 with 7 rounds of ring muscle-ups, bar-facing burpees, and deadlifts. Leeverne Engelbrecht led her heat all the way into the fifth round, not noticing the race happening behind her between Georgia Ayres, Tanha Bouffe, and Angelique Connoway. Engelbrecht crossed the finish line first with a time of 12:50, good for second overall. 

Semifinal rookie Justin Holliday was sitting in the middle of the pack heading into the last event of Day 2. But when he stepped onto the platform for each of his attempts at Barbell Complex, his incredible strength shined. Starting with 135 kg (298 lb) on his bar, Holliday hit the lift, jumped to 141 kg (311 lb), hit it again, and finally loaded 143 kg (315 lb), once again successfully completing the complex. Holliday lifted the most weight out of all the men in Cape Town and earned the first event win of his Semifinals career. 

CrossFit Commit Okavango during Event 3

CrossFit Commit Okavango during Event 3 | Photo by @roarkebouffe

Day 3

The top two teams throughout the entire competition, CrossFit Commit Okavango and CrossFit Tijger Valley, continued to lead the pack through Day 3. CrossFit WHK Sold Out on Life set the time to beat in the last event of the competition before the final heat took the floor. FireBolt and Tijger Valley were neck-and-neck during the first set of deficit press-ups, followed by CrossFit PBM. Tijger Valley was able to take the lead, followed by CrossFit Commit Okavango, which received several no reps on the Worm as one team member failed to move her head to the correct side of the implement. Tijger Valley took first place in the event, with CrossFit Commit Okavango sliding into second — but it wasn’t enough to put Tijger Valley on top. After the points were totaled, CrossFit Commit Okavango was crowned the Fittest in Cape Town and awarded the team ticket to the 2022 Games.

The Michelles — Merand and Basnett — started the final day of competition tied for first with 356 points each. After Event 5, Merand sat in first place, 24 points clear of Basnett. Engelbrecht maintained the lead throughout Event 6, with Merand chasing her down. Engelbrecht took the final event, but Merand’s point total after six events secured her the top of the podium and the women’s sole Games-qualifying spot.

Henry had established himself at the top of the leaderboard heading into the final event, eight points clear of Smith. Smith was first to complete the first round during the final heat, with Henry and Darren Zurnamer close behind. In the end, Potgieter and Henry crossed the finish line within seconds of each other, followed by Smith. Potgieter won the event, second place went to Mohamed Elomda out of the third heat, and Henry took third — enough to secure the overall gold. This will be his first CrossFit Games appearance. 

Michelle Merand during Event 6

Michelle Merand during Event 6 | Photo by @roarkebouffe

Fittest in Cape Town Top Finishers

Team

  1.  CrossFit Commit Okavango — 580 pts

Women

  1. Michelle Merand — 552 pts

Men

  1. Kealan Henry — 516 pts

The athletes listed above will be advancing to the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games. 

Up next week are the Granite Games in Eagan, Minnesota, and Far East Throwdown in Busan, South Korea. Also, the remaining divisions in the virtual competitions will take on the Age-Group and Adaptive Semifinals to see who will advance to the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games. 

Catch up on all the action from the weekend and rewatch the best moments from Week 2 of the 2022 CrossFit Games Semifinals at Games.CrossFit.com and in the CrossFit Games app

Semifinals Highlights

Cover photo by flsportsguy photography 

Premier Partners