July 16, 2013
Atomic CrossFit is Turning Heads
By Eddie Malone

Atomic CrossFit finished 26th in the Open, but pulled off a second-place finish for a spot to the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games. 

In the drama of the 2013 South Central Regional, a surprise team wrestled the spotlight from its rivals, earning a place on the podium and a ticket to the Games.

The team from Atomic CrossFit in Stafford, Texas, finished 26th in the Open, but in San Antonio showed the sum was greater than the parts. First-place finishes in three events offset an 18th-place stumble on Event 5 to give Atomic CrossFit second place overall.

Head coach, Jim Kelly, knew before Regionals that he had a special group of athletes.

On the women’s side were two elite collegiate athletes. Beth Spearman was an All-American pole-vaulter, with four years of CrossFit behind her.

Relatively new to CrossFit, Jamie Carter reached the College World Series with her softball team at Texas A&M. With a 245-lb. front squat, she had potential. When she started getting muscle-ups, everyone knew they had a “monster” on their hands.

Then there is Janet Black. The 39-year-old firebreather made waves the last couple of years, winning last year’s Open in South Central and finishing 16th at Regionals as an individual. She finished the Open in fifth this year, but decided early on to go team.

“The decision to go team was not difficult,” Black says. “After experiencing 2012 Regionals as an individual, I knew that my best chance to make it to Carson would be on a team. Our team dynamics are extremely strong and we (Black and Spearman) committed to team early in the year. I knew that my strengths could contribute to the team and my weaknesses would be supported by my teammates.”

On the men’s side are a couple of coaches, plus a “raw” new guy. Team captain Daniel Ward — described as a collective thinker and always looking for ways to make everyone better — is known for his engine, solid mechanics and leg strength.

Will Maloy, another coach at Atomic, excels at the Olympic lifts. Nicknamed “Panda” because of his strength bias and distaste for gymnastics and endurance, he is nonetheless making headway in those areas of weakness.

The new guy has arguably the greatest name in the CrossFit community — Ben Bacon — and though inexperienced in CrossFit competition, he is a gifted athlete.  

Going into Regionals, the team was looking to turn heads, and after practicing the events believed it had a legitimate shot at a top-five placing.

A stumble on Event 5 had the team worried, but after a quick calculation by Kelly — they needed to be in the top 20 on that event to stay in the top three — they were safe, for the time being.

In Event 6, the team worried about Bacon’s proficiency with the lunges. In practice, he’d struggled with the last part of the chipper. But on game day, Bacon shed his rookie stripes, lunging more than 60 of the 90 feet without dropping the axle. The team’s first-place finish in the event virtually secured its place in Carson, Calif.

Since their impressive performance at the Regional, Team Atomic CrossFit has been preparing diligently for the Games.

“As we train for the unknown of the Games, our coach Jim Kelly is challenging us as individuals and as a team unit,” Black says. “We have spent time on the track, in a pool and under some heavy weights. We will be ready.”

As their showing at Regional proved, team cohesion and camaraderie have never been a problem. In fact, they get along so well that Kelly programs an extra 15 minutes into the day’s training to allow for “goofing off” time.

“Our team cohesion has happened naturally,” Black says. “Our personalities, likes and interests are very similar. We get one another’s jokes, movie quotes and our team text threads can go on for hours.”

There’s fun to be had at the Games in July, but rest assured, Team Atomic CrossFit will be all business when the time comes. Having proved themselves once, they’re looking to “shock” people again and honor their biggest fans: the community back in Stafford, Texas. 

“It is an amazing feeling to represent Atomic CrossFit,” Black says. “We have had such an outpouring of support from every person at our box. We are honored to represent the people of ACF. They are just as much a part of this as we are and we truly could not do it without them.”