June 3, 2018
Ben Makes Ten
By Brittney Saline
The 2018 Reebok CrossFit Games rosters are set. See who's headed to Madison in August.
The 2018 Reebok CrossFit Games rosters are set. See who's headed to Madison in August.

PACIFIC

 

Although Tia-Clair Toomey is the Fittest Woman on Earth, she’s never won a Regional. Until now.

 

She won the Pacific Regional in dramatic fashion with three event wins, three second-place finishes and one event record (Event 6), holding the top spot from Event 1 throughout the entire weekend. She finished with 582 points to second-place Kara Saunders’ 552.

 

Toomey
Toomey

Saunders, who takes second after three straight years of Regional victory, also gave an outstanding performance. She took two event wins, one event record (Event 5) and five top-three finishes.

With her eyes on a bigger prize—the title of Fittest on Earth—Saunders said she wasn’t concerned about giving up her Regional title. The weekend had been an experiment, she said, a “rough draft” for the plan she’s writing for Madison.

“Pretty much for every event I’ve had a couple things I’ve wanted to test out for myself before I get let loose in the jungle. … I’m not gonna show all my cards right now, but let’s just say I learned a lesson,” Saunders said after setting a new record on Event 5.

Returning to the Games after taking a year off is Justine Beath, who earned third with 468 points and no finish below eighth. She’s joined by Courtney Haley, who will make her CrossFit Games debut this summer, and Madeline Sturt, who returns for her third consecutive CrossFit Games appearance.

Like Toomey, the men’s champion, James Newbury, held the top spot from Event 1 onward. He earned his second consecutive Regional victory with three event wins and five top-three finishes, accumulating 546 points over six events.
 

Newbury
Newbury

Dean Linder-Leighton, who took second with 446 points and will make his first trip to the Games this summer, also held a qualifying spot throughout the weekend. Less sure was who would take the next three spots.

At the end of Day 1, Bayden Brown, Matt Mcleod and Matthew Reilly joined Newbury and Linder-Leighton in the top five. After Day 2, Reilly had been replaced by Khan Porter, a three-time Games vet looking for a comeback.

The final event brought still more change.

Going into Event 5, Royce Dunne was in 10th, 36 points out of qualification. You might think 10th is too far out to have a shot, but it’s a good thing Dunne didn’t think that way.

Though Porter led at the start of the event, Dunne overtook him with faster transitions on the first set of thrusters. Dunne finished at 4:05.02, his only event win of the weekend and one of his three top-five finishes. The 100 points he earned were enough to catapult him to fourth overall. Porter’s sixth-place finish was good enough for third, while Zeke Grove, whose time of 4:11.45 from Heat 3 stood for second place in Event 6, landed in fifth.

“Rob Forte went team and gave me a spot,” Dunne joked about his qualification.
 

Dunne
Dunne

Grove was more emotional, struggling to speak as he welled up in his interview.

“I didn’t expect it,” said the two-time Games athlete. “Coming in today I knew I had to do something special.”

MERIDIAN

Rasmus Andersen is back.

In 2016, he took second at the California Regional and went to the Games; last year, he finished ninth at the Meridian Regional. Though he ended Day 1 out of contention in fifth—the Meridian Regional sends just four men, four women and four teams to Madison—first- and third-place finishes on Day 2 sent him to the top.

Though he did not win any more events, fourth- and second-place finishes in Events 5 and 6 were enough to hold him in first overall, and he finished with 506 points to second-place Elliot Simmonds’ 488.

Simmonds earned silver in what is only his second Regional experience as an individual (last year he took seventh in the Meridian). He did so with no finishes outside ninth and two event wins—one of which was the brutal Event 5 chipper, in which he raced nearly rep for rep and no rep for no rep—with Willy Georges on the lunges. Simmonds finished the event at 15:41.32 and took the win.

Lukas Esslinger capped his weekend off with an Event 6 win—he gained the advantage over Phil Hesketh, who took the early lead, by minimizing rest and jumping straight into the rope climbs after the thrusters—to end the Regional in third. This summer will mark his third trip to the CrossFit Games.

But perhaps of more importance than any event win this weekend was this moment for the history books: With Willy Georges’ fourth-place overall finish, France sends its first individual athlete to the CrossFit Games.

Georges
Georges

Georges is a former semi-professional rugby player who originally started CrossFit to rebuild strength for rugby after breaking his arm. He never went back to rugby, and just more than a month ago, he spoke of the honor it would be to be the first to represent France in the Individual competition at the Games and inspire others from his country to do CrossFit.

“I think it (would) be an honor and big privilege to be the first French (individual) to go to the Games,” he said. “If I can motivate some young boy to do CrossFit, I’m happy.”

On the women’s side, Jamie Greene was nothing short of dominant the whole weekend.
 

Greene
Greene

After taking back-to-back second-place finishes on Day 1 and back-to-back firsts on Day 2, she capped the weekend with second on Event 5 and one final win on Event 6.

Greene won with 582 points, a whopping 126 points more than Lauren Fisher, who took second.

Fisher, a transplant from the California Regional, proved she can hang in the Meridian with her solid second-place finish. She’ll join her boyfriend, Andersen, in Madison this summer for her fourth CrossFit Games appearance. She earned it with two top-three finishes and no finish below 10th, holding a qualifying spot all weekend.

The final day brought a few surprises, however, for the last two qualifying spots.

Going into Event 5, Manila Pennacchio was in third, with 286 points. No one was paying much attention to Stephanie Chung, in eighth with 232 points. Until she won Event 5.

She moved from the middle of the pack to the top with quick, lateral steps on the box. Greene reached the lunges first, followed by Oddrun Eik Gylfadottir, but both suffered a no rep just before the red line. Meanwhile, Chung charged down the floor with unbroken lunge steps, overtaking the leaders with her long strides. She finished at 15:46.54.
 

Chung
Chung

The win—combined with a fourth-place Event 6 finish and Pennacchio’s 14th- and 16th-place finishes in the final two events—was enough to bump Chung up to fourth and punch a ticket for her debut CrossFit Games appearance.

Third place went to Gylfadottir, whose fifth- and third-place finishes in Events 5 and 6 bumped her from fourth after Day 2 to bronze medalist on Day 3. She will also make her first Games appearance in August.

ATLANTIC

It wasn’t looking great for Ben Smith after Day 2.

He sat outside Games contention in sixth, and the man he needed to beat to move up to a qualifying spot was none other than his brother Alec Smith, who had just six points more.

As the men labored through Event 5, commentators worried for Ben. He looked tired, they said, and seemed to move with no sense of urgency. But looks are deceiving. He didn’t win the event—that went to Travis Williams, who was in seventh at the start of the day—but he did take third, making up time lost on the step-overs with long, sweeping strides on the lunges. The finish bumped Ben to fourth, while Alec, who took second in the event, rose to third.

Mayer’s Event 5 win did some nice damage control, but he still stood outside contention before the final, 18 points from fifth-place John Coltey.
 

Coltey
Coltey

But Coltey had no intention of giving up his ticket to Madison. He took the lead from the first set of thrusters, expanding it by taking no rest between sets while Mayer paused to catch his breath. Coltey won the event at 3:37.04; Mayer took third at 3:43.06.

Coltey’s win not only preserved his qualification spot. It kicked him up to second.

“It says I don’t have much of a life outside CrossFit and work,” joked Coltey, who works full time as an electrical engineer.

The brothers Smith took second (Ben) and fifth (Alec) in Event 6 for third and fourth overall. Ben’s qualification sets the record for 10 consecutive CrossFit Games appearances. While fans may have been worried at the start, Ben never was.

“I’m really just here to qualify for the Games, and that’s really where I want to put on a good show,” he said.
 

Ben Smith
Ben Smith

For his part, Alec said “having a 10-time CrossFit Games athlete as a role model is not that bad. It’s really special to share this with him for another year.”

Though Mayer took third in the final event, it wasn’t enough to breach the bubble. Ethan Helbig took seventh in the event but had done well enough in earlier events—he took three top-five finishes and just one below seventh—to secure the final Games spot, his eyes widening in shock when the emcee called his name.

Meanwhile Noah Ohlsen reprised his role as Atlantic Regional champion, taking the gold with one event win and four top-five finishes.

“I’m looking forward to hopefully my best year yet at the Games,” he said.

As with Ben, after Day 1, fans were concerned that Games veteran Emily Bridgers might not make it back. By the final event on Day 3, she was winning the whole thing, overtaking Cassidy Lance-McWherter for the overall lead with her second-place Event 5 finish.

While Mekenzie Riley held steady in third, Whitney Gelin, who had been on the bubble at the start of the day, moved from sixth to fourth with her third-place Event 5 finish, leaving the bubble battle to Paige Semenza (in fifth with 330 points) and Lindsay Eder (in sixth with 320 points).

Bridgers and Lance-McWherter raced for the title in the final event, Lance-McWherter edging Bridgers out by just over three seconds to win the event—and the gold—at 4:35.99. It is Lance-McWherter’s second consecutive Regional victory.
 

McWherter
McWherter

Bridgers took second in the event and overall, and will end her five-year CrossFit Games career exactly where she wanted to—in Madison, Wisconsin.

Riley ended the weekend with her worst finish of the Regional—11th in Event 6—but had built enough of a point cushion that her third-place spot was safe, and Gelin secured the fourth spot with a third-place Event 6 finish.

The final qualifying spot came down to a difference of four seconds.

Paige Semenza and McKenzie Flinchum raced side by side and nearly rep for rep in the final event, Semenza finishing fifth at 5:00.45 to Flinchum’s 5:04.06. Eder, who had also been on the bubble, took eighth at 5:12.70, giving way for Semenza to make her first trip to the Games.


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