March 8, 2013
The Casual Open Competitor Who Qualified: Jessica McNabney
By Laura Rice

"Giving it your all is really important, but don't forget that the Open, just like CrossFit, is supposed to be fun, too. If it's not fun, you're not doing it right ..."


Jessica McNabney is not easily intimidated.

Also known as McNinja, McNabney is a mixed martial artist with a second-degree black belt. As a former collegiate lacrosse and volleyball player, she is familiar with competition. With just six months of CrossFit experience, McNabney signed up for the 2012 Open.

"I thought the Open sounded like fun," she says. "Our gym was going to do the (workouts) anyway, and since I was new to CrossFit, I thought it would be interesting to compare myself to other women across the world. But honestly, the biggest reason I decided to do the Open was that I hoped that I could contribute a … score or two to help get a team to the North East Regional."

With a 53rd-place finish in the North East, McNabney qualified as an individual competitor for Regionals.

"I never thought I would make it as an individual,” McNabney recalls. “I was only six months into CrossFit, and suddenly I was ranked in the top 60 in the North East Region and 749th in the world ... It was surreal." 

She adds: “I was terrified. I'm brand new to CrossFit, I feel like I have none of the movements down efficiently and now I have to … perform workouts in front of a huge crowd of people against women who are far more experienced than me."

In the short time between the Open and Regionals, McNabney had to learn how to do handstand push-ups, snatch a 70-lb. dumbbell and do pistols.

She had strong finishes in the first three workouts at the North East Regional, but suffered back spasms in Event 4 that plagued her through the final workout.

"The North East Regional competition was amazing," she says. "It was by far the best athletic experience I have had in my life. All those high-level athletes packed into one place makes it where you can't help but get caught up in the excitement and anticipation. Between winning my heat in the dumbbell snatch WOD and pushing through back spasms to finish the last two WODs, I have never felt so powerful." 

She ended the weekend in 25th place.

McNabney is looking forward to this year’s Open. In the past year, she has completed the Level 1 Seminar and is now a trainer at Flower City CrossFit. Her skills have improved tenfold, she says.

"Going into the Open this year, I'm stronger, leaner and more experienced. I have learned so much in the last year,” she says. “My movements are much more efficient now. Do I feel like I am exactly where I need to be? No. But that's one of the great things about CrossFit. There's always something new to learn and always ways you can improve."

She reminds new CrossFitters to have fun in the Open.

"Giving it your all is really important, but don't forget that the Open, just like CrossFit, is supposed to be fun, too. If it's not fun, you're not doing it right. That's why I fell in love with CrossFit and why I can't wait for the Open this year."