It’s tournament time at the CrossFit Games.
March Madness might be long in the past, but CrossFit fans had their brackets in order for the ZigZag Sprint, a four-round tournament that set the Individuals racing around four obstacles over 50 yards.
Six athletes raced against each other, and the top three finishers from each heat moved on to the next round.
As in a ski slalom, athletes tried to get as close as possible to the obstacles. Swinging too wide meant losing valuable time and ultimately cost athlete places in the final rounds.
Competitors were allowed to wear cleats for this event, which helped them dig into the grass in the soccer field as they negotiated the obstacles at high speed.
The action was fast and furious as six women sprinted around pylons in an event that left no room for error.
Women with soccer, track and field-hockey backgrounds shone in this event. Lindy Wall, a former soccer player, and Michelle Crawford, who played on the United States Women’s National Field Hockey Team in the World Cup and Pan American Games, dominated from start to finish. In the end, it was Crawford who made it in the top three in each round and won the event.
Despite suffering a sprained ankle on Sunday, Kristan Clever still managed to get in the top three in the first round. The effort cost her—she was unable to hold her speed and make it to the final round.
Even though the athletes had little recovery time between rounds, Wall and Crawford got faster each time as they became more comfortable with the obstacles. Both negotiated the pylons with ease, looking smooth as they rounded the turns.
The final heat saw speed demons Michelle Kinney, Michelle Crawford, Deborah Cordner Carson, Stacie Tovar, Lindy Wall and Christy Phillips facing off.
Before final heat, Deborah Cordner Carson separated herself from the other women, stretching and occasionally closing her eyes
Cordner Carson, a former collegiate sprinter, said this event is not is her wheelhouse.
“I'm fast but not quick,” she said.
"I'm fast straight on,” she explained.
Cordner Carson was able to turn it on in the straightaway, which helped her get to the final round, but others were quicker on the turns. She’s disappointed she didn't win the event but said, "I'm still happy with my effort.”
The women in the final heat started out neck and neck, but Crawford negotiated the pylons with confidence and pulled ahead.
“I was a field-hockey player my whole life, and we do drills like this all the time,” Crawford said. “I just reminded myself to stay low on the turns,” she said.
“The first one was a bit nerve wracking because we didn’t know what to except.”
Crawford knew Wall was the woman to beat in the final round. The two of them went head-to-head in the second round—and Wall beat Crawford—and the final was a rematch.
Crawford said she knew she could beat Wall.
“I think I was stopping early at the dummy instead of running through the time. So I made sure I ran all the way through in the final, and I think it’s what made the difference.”
Marcus Hendren used a chair and chalk bucket as obstacles to practice before the event—and it paid off.
In a race that came down to a thousandth of a second, Hendren edged out Dan Bailey to win the event. Hendren’s winning time of 11.1 seconds was not his fastest of the day; he ran one of the earlier rounds in 10.9 seconds, the fastest time of any athlete.
Many top competitors were eliminated early on. Unlike the Burden Run, there was no room for pacing in this event.
Rich Froning had a close call in his first heat when his foot slipped while rounding the pylon. He managed to recover and made it out of that round, but he was unable to earn a spot in the final sprint-off.
The competition was so tight that a quarter-final round ended up in a four-way tie. First Graham Holmberg and Justin Allen faced off in a tie-breaker race, then Ben Smith and Marcus Filly ran together in a sprint-off. Only Smith made it to the finals.
Michael Mogard of the Asia Region pulled his hamstrings in an early round but held on, working his way into the final round and finishing fourth overall with legs heavily wrapped.
“I pulled my right hamstring in the first round and my left one in the second,” Mogard said. “Obviously I didn’t tear it completely because I’m still walking.”
Mogard kept attacking the sprint despite the pain.
“I didn’t do very well on the first two events, and I wanted some points,” Mogard said.
The final round included Aja Barto, Ben Smith, Marcus Hendren, Michael Mogard, Dan Bailey and Scott Panchik.
It came down to a battle between Bailey and Hendren. Bailey had an explosive start but slipped slightly at one of the pylons, allowing Hendren to edge out Bailey for the win.
"I thought he'd win," said Brian MacKenzie, Bailey’s coach. "Had he not slipped.”
"I've been working with Dan since March," MacKenzie said. "This was his event."
"They were getting ample recovery," he said of the time between races. "They probably could have done it 10 or 20 times before they were just toast, given the recovery."
Even though he finished 43rd in the ZigZag Spring, Jason Khalipa held onto his first-place spot going into the day’s last event.
1. Michelle Crawford
2. Lindy Wall
3. Stacie Tovar
Overall leader: Samantha Briggs
1. Marcus Hendren
2. Dan Bailey
3. Aja Barto
Overall leader: Jason Khalipa