"I think we're all here because, not only do we want to make ourselves better, but we want to make each other better."
Inaugural competition events set the stage for a weekend of epic proportion, or epic failure. Athletes either struggle for redemption, or redefine greatness. It all begins with their first test. To say the Central East Region delivered as expected is an understatement.
However, the crowd gathered for the first day of the Central East’s Regional competition and they were in for more than just spectacular performances. After Dan Bailey broke Chris Spealler’s world record on Diane and Rich Froning had pulled his 5th place finish within the same heat, both Froning and Bailey didn’t walk off the floor.
They didn’t head to the athlete village where massages, ice baths and food were waiting. They moved over to the 12th spot on the pull-up bar, where Shawn Stauffer was struggling with handstand push-ups. Froning and Bailey, along with Nick Urankar and several others stayed. They stayed and cheered on their competitors.
It would happen again. Froning would zero in on Marcus Hendren after completing his power cleans in Event 2. The top competitors in the field didn’t leave the floor one at a time ... they left together.
“It’s shared suffering, that’s what we call it,” said Froning. “You know what the other person’s going through. You know what you’ve been through. You know you need that little extra push so you push someone else. I think we’re all here because, not only do we want to make ourselves better, but we want to make each other better.”
That shared struggle is interwoven with the sense of community that is the foundation of CrossFit. Those in the stands, crowding the gates and watching at home know it. CrossFitters can probably close their eyes and picture that workout, that moment when it felt like the body and the mind couldn’t go any further. When it felt like one more rep was impossible.
It’s what holds the CrossFit community together, according to Graham Holmberg. “The guys that stick through it, the guys that finish, those are the guys you want to be going into battle with,” he said. “So out here, it’s funny because they are trying to see who should be here and who shouldn’t be here, but at the same time every single guy who’s out here wants to be out here and doesn’t want to leave anything on the line. And so it’s awesome to watch everyone and it’s inspiring to your own self.”
During these days of Regional competition, the bond held by these competitors isn’t seen just at center stage. It’s in the athlete’s village, where they sit huddled in groups chatting, laughing and encouraging each other before a workout. It’s outside the Ohio Expo Center, where in the case of Bailey and Froning, they live together and train together.
For Stauffer, who is competing for the first time at Regionals, that bond was not lost on him. One year ago, he was checking out his first Regional competition. Learning the names, seeing the faces. Today, those faces will remain in his mind as brothers. “I thought it was awesome, they talked to me a lot about stuff and gave me some pointers so, yeah I thought it was awesome,” he said.
The display of brotherhood, of camaraderie - it’s not for show but it’s important to be a part of the show. As spectators and CrossFitters watch these athletes go after each other they’re also watching a CrossFit creed alive and on the floor. They’re watching one athlete support another. They’re watching Froning stand in front of Elijah Muhammad and push him to finish the shoulder to overheads in Event 4.
“You can kind of see a struggle in the face or in the movement, you can kind of tell, this person’s having a tough time,” Froning said. “It’s almost like triage. You go to who you need to first and then move down. “There’s kind of that unwritten, unspoken thing that you go cheer [on] everyone else,” Froning added. “After “3, 2, 1 - Go” we’re all friends again,” he said, smiling as he added, “maybe not so much in the middle.”