The Central East’s got new digs.
After three years calling the Ohio Expo Center in Columbus home, the Central East Regional has moved more than 100 miles southwest to the University of Cincinnati’s Fifth Third Arena, home of the Cincinnati Bearcats volleyball and basketball teams.
With 360-degree stadium seating, there’s room for hundreds to scrutinize Rich Froning’s hang snatch from every angle. And if anyone managed to find a bad seat, they could just look to the live broadcast on the jumbotron suspended above the heads of the fittest in the Central East.
“It’s a lot bigger, and very nice and professional,” said Angela Satterfield from her perch in one of the arena’s upper balconies. “We’ve got great seats. We’re looking forward to watching everyone from up here.”
The teams of the Central East were the first to break in the new regional floor.
Only three of the top ten regional teams from 2013 were seeded in the top ten going into the weekend this year: CrossFit Naptown, CrossFit Maximus and CrossFit Mayhem.
The latter two teams each vie for a return trip to the CrossFit Games, while CrossFit Naptown will attempt to atone for a narrow miss -- the team placed fourth by just two points after the final event last year.
But this year, there’s a new team at the top: CrossFit Conjugate Black.
The worldwide winner of the 2014 Open, CrossFit Conjugate Black is composed of six competitors who qualified as individuals for the Central East Regional. Though the affiliate sent a team to the regional in 2013, the team has a new roster and numbers to stand on, after taking three first-place finishes in the Open this year.
And for CrossFit Conjugate Black, winning seems to be a trend, taking first place in the first three events of the weekend.
Going team is no consolation prize.
To make it to Carson, Calif., this year, the teams cannot rely on specialists. In the opening regional team event, all six teammates needed to demonstrate prowess on the rings in a relay of muscle-ups and clean and jerks.
For some teams, the event was a chance for redemption after holes were exposed in the burpee muscle-up event of the 2013 Regional. For others, it was a chance to pull away from the pack at the beginning of the hunt.
In the first heat, team Joco CrossFit’s third male did his muscle-ups in singles, but his kip was so powerful that by the time he turned over the rings in the dip, most of his body was already on top of the rings.
When the final heat took the floor, Event 1 looked more like a tennis match as heads turned to follow the leading team, turning between CrossFit Conjugate Black, CrossFIt Naptown Blue and CrossFit Grandview.
The win came down to the women.
CrossFit Conjugate took the early lead, eliciting screams from the crowd as their first male did 15 unbroken muscle-ups, followed by a set of two from the team’s first female to hit the rings.
But though she she was strong in the air, she struggled on the ground. While her judge no-repped her for failing to lock out on her clean and jerks, team SPC took the lead.
Just after four minutes, the race was between SPC CrossFit, CrossFit Naptown Blue and CrossFit Murfreesboro. Julianne Broadbent held the lead for her team, SPC CrossFit, with easy power cleans, pressing into the jerk so fluidly, you’d think it was a cluster.
Her last rep in the bank, Broadbent carried her bar in the front rack to the white number nine on the floor, making way for the team’s last male behind her.
One minute later, CrossFit Conjugate Black got a second wind.
With just under seven minutes on the clock, both SPC CrossFit and CrossFit Conjugate Black had their final females on the rings. But while SPC did singles, Jennifer Nobis-Dancer of CrossFit Conjugate Black broke hers into just two sets: seven and two.
"Jen did a great job on her muscle-ups,” teammate Mark Nelson said, crediting his teammate with the event win.
While SPC CrossFit’s final female took her third failed rep, advancing to her final clean and jerks, CrossFit Conjugate Black sent their final woman to the mat, taking the event in 7:11.
CrossFit Naptown Blue was the next to finish without penalty, stopping the clock at 8:35, followed 30 seconds later by CrossFit Maximus.
Team Event 1 Results
1. CrossFit Conjugate Black (7:11)
2. CrossFit Naptown Blue (8:35)
3. CrossFit Maximus (9:00)
The signs on the platforms strewn about the arena floor read the names of the Central East’s top teams.
Yet, it was a single athlete who commanded the attention of the arena as he approached his platform: Sam Dancer of team CrossFit Conjugate Black.
Two weeks before the Central East Regional, Dancer posted a 320-lb. hang snatch, 20 lb. more than the full snatch reported by three-time CrossFit Games champion, Rich Froning. Today – on his birthday -- Dancer put up 295 lb., ten pounds more than any individual has lifted in the hang snatch event so far. The weight added to the team’s total of 1,170 lb., earning first place in the event and the team’s first event record.
Dancer opened at 275 lb., taking care not to chip his fingernails, today painted bright green and bedazzled.
“I was an art major, and my nails are like baby canvases,” Dancer said before the Event. “Some people think it is weird, different, not normal. I don't really believe in any of those words.”
Team SPC CrossFit wasn’t phoning it in, either -- two platforms over, the team’s males made lifts at 235 lb., while their women hit 135 easily. Julianne Broadbent, standing out from her team in a hot pink sports bra, caught a shaky 175 lb. in the final five seconds, but the room belonged to Dancer, holding his 295-lb. bar at the hip.
Whether he paused for effect or preparation is impossible to say; whatever the intent, the crowd was transfixed.
He dipped, shrugged and dropped, catching the bar deep in a squat. The crowd wondered whether he’d ever come back up, holding the bar overhead for a full five seconds before standing in triumph.
The event win was no accident.
"We practiced cold last week,” Dancer said. “We wanted to kind of simulate the feeling of roughly 20 minutes in the corral area and make sure we could hit our openers and second lifts completely cold."
Team CrossFit Conjugate Black did more than lift heavy weight in their opening act, however.
Following up their second event win with a third in Event 2, the team walked 540 feet on their hands, proving that “strong” and “gymnasty” aren’t mutually exclusive.
David Fairbanks of team CrossFit Covington 2 was the first man of the day to handstand walk 120 feet for his team--a PR.
“I had practiced it before coming here, but didn't have a 120-foot area at my box to practice the full distance,” he said.
Three teams broke 500 feet in the third event: CrossFit Conjugate Black, CrossFit Naptown Blue and CrossFit Covington 1.
Team Event 2 Results
1. CrossFit Conjugate Black (1170 lb.)
2. SPC CrossFit (1090 lb.)
3. Friendship CrossFit (1085 lb.)
Team Event 3 Results
1. CrossFit Conjugate Black (540 feet)
2. CrossFit Naptown Blue (530 feet)
3. CrossFit Covington #1 (510 feet)
1. CrossFit Conjugate Black (3)
2. CrossFit Murfreesboro (23)
3. CrossFit Covington #1 (25)
4. CrossFit Naptown Blue (27)
5. Friendship CrossFit (27)
6. SPC CrossFit (29)
7. CrossFit Maximus (29)
8. CrossFit Nashville (30)
9. CrossFit Lower Town (36)
10. CrossFit Mayhem (37)
With only three events in the books, CrossFit Conjugate Black has made a name for itself as the leading team of the Central East with three event wins, sitting atop the Leaderboard with just three points, giving themselves a 20-point berth on the first day of competition.
Tomorrow, we’ll see if CrossFit Conjugate Black is as agile on the rope as they are under the bar and upside down.