The California Regional in Del Mar, California, always provides an unrivaled level of excitement and edge-of-your-seat competition, and this year was no exception. We saw rookies rise and legends fall as the weekend played out. Here are a few things I learned as I watched it all unfold.
TEAM COMPETITION TAKES NO PRISONERS
Newton’s third law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Although meant to be applied in the realm of physics, there is some application—at least on a surface level—in the Sport of Fitness.
Every time a Regional competition comes down to the wire and the qualifiers are announced, focus shifts to the athlete or team whose CrossFit Games dreams become a reality in that moment. Just as real, though, is the other half of the equation: the team or athlete who in that very same moment, realizes their season is over.
The elation of one side is balanced by the despondence of the other, and no team in recent years is probably more familiar with the side no one wants to be on than the team from CrossFit Costa Mesa. Three years of California Regional competition has resulted in the Costa Mesa team taking sixth, sixth and seventh overall, each time narrowly missing out on qualification.
Two years ago, the team was in a four-way battle for two spots with CrossFit Foothill, Games mainstays Diablo CrossFit Anejo and CrossFit Invictus. The Costa Mesa squad would finish the weekend with 12th- and 11th-place event finishes and drop from the top five to seventh overall. They were just 2 points behind sixth place CrossFit Foothill, and 30 behind fifth-placed Diablo.
Last year, Costa Mesa finished Day 1 in third place overall. Two poor finishes to start Day 2 dropped the team to sixth place, but it staged a valiant comeback the rest of the way. A seventh place, a sixth place, and a pair of top-five finishes to end the weekend weren’t enough to close the 54-point gap between Costa Mesa and CrossFit Davis. The Costa Mesa team finished one place better in sixth, 18 points away from fifth.
Going into this year’s final event, 50 Worm clean and jerks for time, CrossFit Costa Mesa sat in third place overall. The spot was anything but secure, though, because just 17 points separated the team from eighth-placed CrossFit ASAP.
EndGame Athletics and Bear Republic CrossFit would be the first two teams of the cluster to finish the event, securing their spots in the top five. CrossFit ASAP would be next with a sixth-place finish, but since the team started the event in eighth, it would be up to Costa Mesa to minimize the distance between it and ASAP to hold on to the fifth and final spot.
Costa Mesa finished the event more than a minute behind ASAP and would have to sit and wait for the final tally to be announced. Costa Mesa ultimately took 15th place in the event, and once again finished in 6th place overall, sending CrossFit ASAP to the Games.
It was another heartbreaking result for the Costa Mesa crew, albeit a much closer margin than years past.
AN EMOTIONAL FINISH
Tensions were high going into the California women’s finale, as Alessandra Pichelli, Lauren Fisher, Maddy Myers, Whitney Heuser, and Becca Voigt were all in contention for the final two spots inside the top five.
Pichelli and Heuser are training partners and friends from Diablo CrossFit in Northern California. Myers and Fisher are also training partners and friends from CrossFit Invictus. Voigt, the elder stateswoman of the bunch, was trying to qualify for a record 10th consecutive year.
Pichelli won the event and secured her spot inside the top five. Voigt was the next finisher of the group in sixth place. It was unclear at the time just how many points Voigt would gain as the other four were yet to finish.
Heuser finished next in ninth, but since she was already outside the top five it would not be enough. The focus now shifted to Myers and Fisher, who finished 14th and 17th, respectively, in the event. As the top heat of women stood on the floor, each qualifier was announced.
Chyna Cho earned the title of 2017 California Regional champion. An event win and five top-five finishes kept her toward the top most of the weekend. Cho is headed to her fourth consecutive trip to the Games.
Kirsten Pedri took second place, the announcement continuing a dream season where she also qualified for the Games in the new Masters 35-39 Division. Pedri burst into tears. Her 2016 season was cut short by injury, and qualifying this year was an emotional triumph for a woman who takes the time to train her 97-year-old grandma.
Pichelli’s event win in the finale moved her all the way to third. She never finished lower than ninth and book-ended her Regional with her two best finishes. The ninth-fittest woman from 2016 is heading back to the Games for the fifth year in a row.
Valerie Voboril was in fourth. She had an ear-to-ear smile when her name was called. The dedicated mother and teacher was not 100 percent as she was recovering from carpal tunnel surgeries in both hands. But she came back with a vengeance, winning two events and reminding everyone that top athletes can balance a career and family, and still be a badass.
Just before the final qualifier announcement was made, the live stream cameras showed a heart-wrenching scene. Myers and Fisher were already in tears, embracing one another, knowing only one of them would get to go to the CrossFit Games. Their care for one another jumped off the screen as Fisher was announced as the fifth and final qualifier.
Off to the side, an emotional Voigt stood as the crowd gave the athletes an ovation. It signaled the end of an era. Voigt’s streak of consecutive individual appearances at the Games was over. Voigt, the last remaining individual athlete from the 2008 Games, represented the old guard of Aromas, and she was now in an unfamiliar place. She qualified for the Games as a master this year, but she will be greatly missed on the individual side.
JULIAN ALCARAZ SURPRISES EVERYONE
The men’s competition was full of twists, turns and surprises at the California Regional. Josh Bridges won the gold, with Garret Fisher in second, Jason Carroll in third, Julian Alcaraz in fourth and Jeff Patzer in fifth.
But the story doesn’t end there.
Prior to his qualification, Alcaraz notified the event organizers that if he did end up qualifying, he would decline his invite to the Games. Alcaraz has a baby due in August and he made the decision to put family first.
An ecstatic Wesley Rethwill was bumped up from fifth to sixth place and will head to the Games for his rookie debut.