May 13, 2014
Austin Stack Fights for Greg Mills
By Cara Kobernik

"CrossFit is not all about the Games. It’s about the affiliates and about changing people’s lives for the better."

This weekend, CrossFit Games veteran Austin Stack will fight for a return trip to the StubHub Center at the North West Regional in Kent, Washington.

But this time around, he’s dedicating his performance to his friend Greg Mills, who is fighting quite a different battle. Mills has stage 4 liver and colon cancer.

“Greg inspires me every day,” Stack said. “This man has been in the battle for his life for more than two years. I have dedicated this CrossFit season to him, and he is a big part of what keeps me motivated and focused. Greg gives me the drive to never give up, never take the easy way out and to continue to fight!”

When powering through a tough workout, Stack draws inspiration from his friend’s resilience. He’s constantly reminded of it by a phrase inscribed on his Nanos in black Sharpie: “Fight For Greg Mills.”

“Greg is one of the strongest guys I know, and he is an amazing man, husband, father and friend,” Stack said. “The way Greg continues to live his life and is so strong for his sweet little family and two girls is remarkable. It puts life into perspective. I couldn’t walk a day in his shoes! He gives me strength.”

Goal: Return to Carson

Stack, 29, is no stranger to the CrossFit Games. In 2011, he placed 11th at the North West Regional. In 2012, he placed third at the regional and 34th at the Games. He missed a trip to Carson, California in 2013 after placing fifth at the regional, but he said that glitch drove him to improve on his weaknesses.

“I feel I’ve worked hard on my gymnastics movements this last offseason,” he said. “Muscle-ups, pull-ups and handstand push-ups have been some of my main focus, and I can tell the difference.”

Friend and fellow athlete Colin Schoonover of CrossFit Intensify in Springfield, Oregon, said Stack’s efforts this year made a difference in his performance in the Open.

“Not performing up to his expectations last year and missing a spot to compete in Carson really bugged (Stack),” Schoonover said. “Austin has made a serious effort toward his goal of making it back to the Games this year. He has dedicated himself to his conditioning and really working on his weaknesses to ensure that he reaches that goal, more than I’ve seen of him in past years.”

After placing ninth in this year’s Open, Stack said he’s looking forward to seeing where he stacks up against the competition.

“The regional (events) are going to be some great tests of fitness and should be fun to watch and compete in,” he said. “I’m looking forward to giving it everything I have. Ultimately, it boils down to you competing against yourself. That’s the challenging part, mentally and physically.”

Powerhouse at Work

As the owner of CrossFit The Den in Medford, Oregon, Stack has plenty of time for barbell work, and it’s something he enjoys.

“The beauty about the Olympic lifts is that they require skill and components from all areas,” he said. “They require speed and strength, but they also require a great deal of coordination, agility, accuracy, balance and flexibility. It takes lots of practice and technique work.”

The 6-foot, 215-lb. athlete can clean and jerk 325 lb., snatch 250 lb. and deadlift 450 lb.

“I like anything overhead—press, push press and jerks,” he said. “Well, I like them because they come easy to me.”

Though Stack devotes much of his time to training for competition, he said he encourages his members to remember that CrossFit is about more than the clock or finishing a workout as prescribed.

“CrossFit is not all about the Games,” Stack said. “It’s about the affiliates and about changing people’s lives for the better. It’s about making grandma able to pick up her grandkids and play on the floor with them. It’s about the person who just lost 100 lb. and is getting their life back. That’s where the heart of CrossFit stands. That’s what’s important.”