A veteran and a rookie stood atop the men’s and women’s podiums at the end of the Central Regional.
Though 2014 Games competitor Jacob Heppner commanded the top spot for most of the weekend, it was three-time Games athlete Scott Panchik who won gold. Though he did not win a single event, Panchik never finished outside of the top 10.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Panchik said.
Rookie qualifier Alex Anderson, 2011 Games competitor Nick Urankar, and six-time Games competitor Graham Holmberg rounded out the top 5.
For Urankar, the reward is sweet after missing qualification for the last three years.
“This was going to be it,” Urankar said. “If I didn’t make it, my wife told me on the way here, ‘If you don’t make it, you’re done.’ I thought I was done after Event 3, but I guess you’re never really done until you decide you are, and I just didn’t decide to be.”
Nineteen-year-old Brooke Wells won the women’s division with five placings within the top 4, including one event win.
“It's crazy,” Wells said. “I honestly came here for the experience, and after the second day I was like, ‘Wow, I want to have fun and win.’”
Wells was joined on the podium by four veterans. Nicole Holcomb, Stacie Tovar, Elisabeth Akinwale and Lindy Barber will return to the Games. For Tovar and Barber, who missed qualification in 2014, this is their reward for a long year of training.
“Words can’t express the way I feel right now,” Tovar said. “I’m so happy … I’m so excited to see what can happen this Games season.”
“It means everything,” Barber added. “This year has almost been a hellacious year of training ... last year at regionals was really, really hard for me. But I used it as fuel to relax, reset, (and) refocus my training ... and it's all paid off.”
Akinwale, who has a history of earning the top spot on the regional podium, said she was “pretty happy” to take fourth in the competitive combined regional.
“It’s stunningly different,” Akinwale said. “Sometimes it's hard to know if it's you that is different or just the competition. I knew coming in that I’d possibly be taking a few low finishes, which is different from prior years … so emotionally and psychologically, it’s very tiring. I guess I never thought I'd be happy to take fourth, but I'm pretty happy.”
The opening event on Sunday morning came down to a race between Holmberg and Heppner.
At first, it looked like it would be Anderson who would fight Heppner for the win. Though Anderson was the first to finish the 25-calorie row, he dropped from the pull-up bar after just a few reps while the men beside him butterflied their 16 chest-to-bar pull-ups unbroken.
Breaking his first set of strict deficit handstand push-ups into two sets, Heppner fell behind Holmberg, who ticked off his 9 unbroken.
All three men met at the rig, giving the crowd a brief blast to the past with synchronized pull-ups. But again, Anderson dropped, shaking his hands in frustration.
In Round 3, Heppner cut into Holmberg’s lead, making up time with rapid, strong pulls on the erg and cycling through the 16 chest-to-bar pull-ups at a rate of 1.5 reps every one of Holmberg’s. When the two men reached the wall for the third time, Holmberg and Heppner swapped strategies. While Holmberg broke up his handstand push-ups into two sets, Heppner never kicked down.
“Around like Round 2, I knew Graham (Holmberg) had me by like five seconds or so, so I was like, ‘I have to do the third round unbroken,’” Heppner said. “I sped up a little bit, yeah for sure.”
Holmberg gradually lost steam in the fourth and fifth rounds, while Heppner sped up. Even though Heppner struggled to press out his final handstand push-ups, his speed on the pull-ups had given him enough of a lead. Heppner reached the finish mat in 11:28.3, followed nearly 30 seconds later by Holmberg at 11:55.4.
Two men from an earlier heat beat Holmberg’s time, dropping him to fourth.
Event 6 rearranged the men’s top five, but it didn’t knock anyone out. Heading into Event 7, Heppner was in the lead, followed by Panchik, Holmberg, Anderson and Sam Dancer. Event 6 had forced Holmberg and Dancer to trade locations in the top five, with Holmberg taking third and Dancer dropping precariously to fifth.
Event 6 Results
1. Jacob Heppner (11:28.3)
2. Will Moorad (11:45.6)
3. Cody Keathley (11:52.0)
4. Graham Holmberg (11:55.4)
5. Nick Fory (12:07.7)
A record was broken in the final event, but not by one of the Central’s top men. In Heat 3, Shane McBride finished the 15 muscle-ups and 5 squat cleans increasing from 205 to 265 lb. in just 1:17.7, two-tenths of a second faster than Ben Garard had done at the Pacific Regional last week.
After completing the muscle-ups unbroken, McBride raced through the cleans, seeming to pick up each subsequent weight before the previous had hit the floor.
“I love workouts under two minutes,” McBride said. “It’s a great way to end the weekend.”
In the final heat, minor mistakes had major consequences. For Heppner, a no-rep on his first clean and repeated failure on the final barbell ended his first-place reign, a position he’d held since the second event, and knocked him to second overall.
While the crowed alternately gasped and screamed, Heppner failed the lift at 265 lb. four times, hitting his knees with his elbows and spilling the weight forward. After the fourth failure, he looked to the ceiling, anguished. He took a knee, closed his eyes and inhaled.
Adjusting his grip an inch wider on each side, the fifth rep went up, and he scrambled to the mat at 3:07.1 for 39th in the event.
Dancer lost his ticket to the Games when he dropped from the rings. While the men around him went unbroken, Dancer let go with two reps remaining. One of the last in his heat to finish, he took 32nd in event, falling from fifth to 10th in 2:01.1.
While Heppner and Dancer shocked the crowd with their missteps, Urankar sealed a Heat 4 win, with the second-best time at the regional.
“I had to,” he said. “I was told, ‘We're all crazy inside, you just need to let it out.’ I told myself, ‘Be smooth on the muscle-ups, then shut your brain off and let instinct take over.’”
After an unbroken set of 15 muscle-ups, he demolished the cleans easily. It looked like he could have powered them if the rules had allowed it. The first in his heat to finish, his time 1:18.2 was good enough for second place in the event and fourth overall.
Event 7 Results
1. Shane McBride (01:17.7)
2. Nick Urankar (01:18.2)
3. Phillip Kniep (01:21.6)
4. Scott Panchik (01:21.8)
5. Kevin Schuetz (01:21.9)
CrossFit Games Qualifiers
1. Scott Panchik (553 points)
2. Jacob Heppner (540 points)
3. Alex Anderson (474 points)
4. Nick Urankar (464 points)
5. Graham Holmberg (464 points)
By the sound of it, one would have guessed that the fans packing Minneapolis Convention Center were witnessing a miracle. Some let out shrieks and others cheered as Julie Foucher walked onto the stadium floor. Incredibly, Foucher was able to finish the 5 rounds of rowing, chest-to-bar pull-ups and strict deficit handstand push-ups ahead of all but seven of her peers, despite a partially torn Achilles.
“I’m being really safe about it, so I’m wearing the boot to protect it if I were to fall or something,” Foucher said.
Forgoing the erg’s foot strap, she angled her boot atop the erg’s pedal. Though her right knee rose a good four inches higher than her left, she still kept a faster pace than many in her heat.
After carefully stepping up to her Rogue block, she reached for the pull-up bar and wriggled sideways. The boot did not detract from the elegance of fer butterfly chest-to-bar pull-ups. She performed all the pull-ups and handstand push-ups unbroken, resting while inverted and fully extended, rather than crashing down on her injured foot.
Beaming, she half-walked, half-hopped to the finish more than 20 seconds before the time cap to the cheers of the crowd. Her time was good enough for eighth in the event, which moved her into third overall.
First place went to Nicole Holcomb, who completed all 9 deficit strict handstand push-ups unbroken in each of the 5 rounds to finish in 14:06.3.
“It means a lot,” Holcomb said. “I feel like I’ve gotten more warmed-up as the weekend goes on. I feel good today, the best I have, so these points are nice to have.”
The race for the second-place spot was between Sheila Barden, Brooke Wells, and Grace Dresher.
Though Dresher beat Barden off the rig in the first round, Barden kept her midline stacked for more efficient handstand push-ups while Dresher arched her back and thrust her head through her arms.
While Dresher faded, Wells replaced her in the race for second. Though Barden had a head start, she broke her chest-to-bar pull-ups into two or three sets each round. Barden kept her legs close together with a shallow kip, while Wells scooped her legs wide and outside, going unbroken until the final round.
Though Barden could stay on the wall for more handstand push-ups than Wells, the ground Wells gained on the rig was all she needed to finish more than 10 seconds ahead.
Holcomb’s win raised her from third to second overall, while Foucher took third and Akinwale dropped to fourth. Barden, now in fifth, had no plans to give up her qualifying spot in the final event.
Event 6 Results
1. Nicole Holcomb (14:06.3)
2. Brooke Wells (14:45.1)
3. Sheila Barden (14:55.6)
4. Alyssa Ritchey (15:00.1)
5. Bridget Erickson (15:26.0)
“I peed,” said Alyssa Ritchey who won Event 7 and left a trail to prove it. “I pee all the time. I don’t care!”
In her second event win of the weekend, the 4-foot-11, 115-lb. weightlifter and gymnast from Grand Rapids, Michigan, held her own against athletes 40 lb. heavier and 6 inches taller.
Though she failed her 14th muscle-up and was forced to drop and restart, giving Mikki Nuccio a chance to get ahead, Ritchey met Nuccio at the final, 175-lb. barbell. While Nuccio caught the bar on her forearms and lost it forward again and again, Ritchey popped the bar high on her shoulders, standing it easily for the win.
Qualifying spots were up for grabs in the final heat of the final event.
Though Foucher valiantly finished the regional with 15 muscle-ups, her injury prevented her from attempting the speed clean ladder. Barden, Tovar and Barber each hoped to fill the gap she left.
Tovar was the first to the barbell, followed by Barden seconds later. Though they approached their barbells and lifted almost simultaneously for the first three lifts, Tovar pulled away when Barden received a no-rep on the fourth clean. Tovar stopped the clock at 1:57.4 for fourth in the event and third overall.
Whether shaken by the no-rep or mastered by the weight, Barden hit a roadblock on the final lift. Her first two attempts bounced off her chest; her third landed crooked and toppled forward. When she finally stood the weight up and stopped the clock at 3:24.5, seven others in her heat had already finished. With 21st-place finish, she fell from the fifth qualifying position, landing in sixth with 15 points fewer than Barber, who replaced her.
Event 7 Results
1. Alyssa Ritchey (01:50.8)
2. Kristi Eramo (01:53.0)
3. Michele Fumagalli (01:56.4)
4. Stacie Tovar (01:57.4)
5. Mikki Nuccio (02.00.6)
CrossFit Games Qualifiers
1. Brooke Wells (519 points)
2. Nicole Holcomb (504 points)
3. Stacie Tovar (486 points)
4. Elisabeth Akinwale (475 points)
5. Lindy Barber (466 points)