Regionals begin this Friday with California, Pacific and South. Since multiple regions feed into each regional competition, it’s hard to know who are the top seeds.
To create regional seedings, we combined the qualified athletes from each regional and looked at how they would have ranked in the 2016 Open had they competed only with each other. You can find the top seeded men, women and teams in the tabs below.
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We realize that regionals are arguably very different contests than the Open, with less recovery time and heavier and more technical programming, so we looked at how predictive last year's seedings were of the 2015 Games qualifiers. We found that the seedings were a decent, though imperfect, predictor.
As you can see in the table below, the athletes that enter their regional as the top seed have good odds of qualifying for the Games. Of the eight top-seeded men from 2015, 63 percent (five men), qualified for the 2015 Games. Similarly, 75 percent of the women’s top seeds qualified, and 100 percent, all eight, of the team top seeds made it.
The next row says that, of the 40 men who were top-5 seeds, 55 percent of them, or 22, made the Games. So, being a top-5 seed gives you good odds of qualifying for the Games, more so for the teams than for the women, and more so for the women than the men. But a top-5 seed is by no means a guarantee—that’s probably why CrossFit holds the regionals.
As you go down the seeds, the chances of qualifying get lower and lower. The table below clarifies this point. Last year, all Games qualifiers were seeded 31st or better. Ninety-five percent of the men, 98 percent of the women, and 98 percent of the teams at the 2015 Games were seeded in the top 20.
The reason that we use “Top 31” instead of the nice round “Top 30” was that EZ Muhammad was the lowest seed to qualify last year, in 31st. By moving the goalpost back one spot to 31 we could capture 100 percent of each Games field.
It’s interesting to look at the exceptions, athletes with a great seed who ended up not qualifying, and athletes with middling Opens who found themselves in Carson. The top seeds that didn’t make it through in 2015 were Josh Bridges (California), Dean Linder-Leighton (Pacific), Mitch Barnard (West), Lauren Fisher (California), and Chelsey Hughes (East). With the exception of Fisher, who suffered an ankle injury before regionals, these top seeds did well at regionals, placing in or just outside the top 10. (Fisher actually still did well even with her injury, placing 12th in California.) They each had a few less-than-stellar events, and with the beastliness of these fields, that can be all it takes.
The four athletes who came from farthest out to qualify were EZ Muhammad (Atlantic; 31st seed), Kevin Manuel (Pacific; 24th seed), Alessandra Pichelli (California; 23rd seed), and Sammy Wood (Pacific; 20th seed). And longtime Games vet Lucas Parker won the West Regional out of 17th. All of those athletes are known for their strength, each having impressive barbell numbers, and are mostly relatively larger athletes. It might have been that regionals allowed them to make the most of their strength, where the Open’s relative emphasis on body-weight movements did not. Or they might, a la Ben Smith, have been so confident that they trained through the Open.
Without further ado, let’s have a look at the 2016 seeds for California, Pacific and South. We show the top 10 seeds in each division, along with the points each athletes scored in the virtual seeding competition, which is an indication of how close the competition might be.
Josh Bridges and Rasmus Wisbech Andersen of CrossFit Invictus are once again the top two seeds at the California Regional after world-class performances in the Open. Like Bridges and Andersen, Chelsey Grigsby narrowly missed the 2015 Games, and finds herself atop the pack going into regionals.
There's no shortage of fit athletes in California. There's little drop off in the point totals among the top 10 seeds, which suggests a deep field. The fourth- and tenth-ranked men have only 13 points separating them. And there are plenty of talented Games veterans who didn't make the top-10 seeding, but could make the Games—Julian Alcaraz, Garret Fisher, Kenneth Leverich, Alessandra Pichelli and Kristan Clever. It's going to be a dogfight for the qualifying spots.
The team competition may be more predictable. The scores drop off after Invictus Unconquerable, 10th, suggesting that the five Games teams are likely to come from the top 10 seeds. Invictus and Diablo CrossFit Anejo were dominant in the Open, despite Invictus' star athletes (Nuno Costa, Lauren Fisher, Rasmus Wisbech Andersen) choosing to compete individually. NorCal CrossFit is not competing, but three-time Games qualifier Team CDR is back after a year off.
The bulk of the top seeds at the South Regional come from South Central (22/30; 73 percent). While the South West makes up most the difference (5/30; 17 percent). Brenda Castro (seventh), Anita Pravatti (ninth), and Bigg Friends Reloaded (third) are the three Latin American competitors to break into the top 10.
While South Central claims many of the top seeds, the South West proudly claims Camille Leblanc-Bazinet. The 2014 Games champion dominated the Open and barring injury or natural disaster she’ll qualify for the Games. The other four women's qualifying spots are up for grabs since Margaux Alvarez, Amanda Goodman, Jenn Jones and Maddy Myers have all changed regions. The only other athlete with Games experience in the top 10 is Tiffany Hendrickson; comeback kid Michelle Kinney, Candice Wagner, and Mandi Janowitz are outside the top 10 but arguably in contention for Carson.
Travis Williams, Roy Gamboa and Jordan Cook claimed the top three seeds, which is fitting since the three stood on the podium at the 2015 South Regional. EZ Muhammad and Adrian Conway are likely to figure into the race since they're larger, more explosive athletes who can really shine at regionals.
The team competition has only one 2015 Games qualifier in the top 10, and the seed scores are closely spaced suggesting that this could be anybody's game.
The top seeds in the Pacific—Kara Webb, Kyle Frankenfeld and Zaks Pack East Tamaki—dominated the Australia Region in the Open this year, winning just about every event on offer. Webb is about as close to a lock to qualify as you get. Frankenfeld was the ninth seed in 2015, and missed the Games by just two spots—it looks like he’s upped his game and is well-positioned to go to Carson.
The top 10s are a mix of familiar names from the Games, like Rob Forte, Khan Porter, Ruth Anderson Horrell, and 2015 silver medalist Tia-Clair Toomey, as well as perennial regional competitors. There is some separation in the point totals starting after the fifth- to seventh-ranked seeds and the rest of the field, so, unlike in California, the competition for the Games spots may be between the top 5 to 7 seeded athletes.
Zaks Pack East Tamaki won every Open workout in its region, and by a healthy margin. After the Pack, there's a tight race in the team competition. Note that Schwartz’s, CrossFit Athletic and CrossFit Active have a history of qualifying for the Games, so their experience may count for a lot if it does come down to Sunday.