The two-time CrossFit Games competitor will return for his third Regional.

“Our region has some very legit athletes and may be one of the toughest regions to qualify for. My hat goes off to everyone who competed this year.”

 Photos by: Penny Stephens

Phillip Kniep will return to Chicago, Ill., for his third Regional. At the start, he won’t be appearing in the final heat. Seated in 31st place in North Central, he will enter the competition alongside the rookies.

Some competitors don’t feel like they have anything to prove during the Open. They slide through the first qualifying stage of the CrossFit Games season, and give just enough to make it to the second stage — Regionals.

However, sliding through with the bare minimum wasn’t Kniep’s strategy in past years.

In the 2011 Open, Kniep took 28th place in the world and second place in North Central.

In the 2012 Open, Kniep finished 55th place in the world and fourth in North Central.

This year, Kniep fell to 269th place worldwide and 31st regionally.

Some may wonder if he has lost his edge.

Kniep certainly doesn’t think so.

He says he’s not training for the lighter weights in the Open, but rather for the heavier, higher-skill movements that show up at the Regionals and the Games.

“(The Open) is made so anyone, anywhere can compete,” he says. “That makes it very hard to get a lot of variety in movements. I feel CrossFit does a great job of making the Open about community and getting everyone involved, but, of course, as a strong guy, I'd like to see more heavy workouts and less bodyweight movements.”

Since he knew he wouldn’t get his favorite style of workouts in the Open, he hit each one only once and then returned to his regular training.

“I approached the Open workouts this year just like any other WOD. My goal was not to let it distract me from training for Regionals.”

His training for 2013 includes a lot of Olympic lifting and high-skill gymnastics movements.

“Since the 2012 Games, I started following the Outlaw Way and using Rudy Nielsen as my coach. I've been focusing a lot on my Oly lifting and also improving my gymnastic skills. Previously I followed ( programming mixed in with much of my own,” he says. “I've taken much more of an offseason approach this year compared to many others.”

While he’s confident the training will pay off in the later stages of the season, it certainly didn’t help him during the Open.

While other experienced Games competitors reigned atop the worldwide Leaderboard, Kniep putted along the middle of the North Central Leaderboard. He stayed in the top 100 in North Central for all five workouts, swinging from a low of 93rd place on 13.2 to a high of 26th place on 13.5.

“I loved 13.5,” he says. “It was programmed perfectly. It really made you embrace the suck. The second four minutes was terrible.”

He’s not the only North Central competitor who’s sliding in to the Regional. In July, Kyle Kasperbauer stood on the podium in Carson, Calif., and was named the third fittest man on Earth. A few months later, he’s tied for 15th in the region and took 139th in the world.

It’s not what the spectators may expect, but qualifying is qualifying.

A spiritual man, Kniep feels fortunate and blessed to have a platform like CrossFit to showcase his faith and talent. He also gives kudos to the North Central Region that gives him the chance to compete with the best.

“Our region has some very legit athletes and may be one of the toughest regions to qualify for. My hat goes off to everyone who competed this year,” he says. “The CrossFit community is amazing ... I am very happy to be able to qualify and participate in the next round.”